The technology industry will rely on a skills base that “goes beyond” science and engineering skills and equips future university graduates with creativity and an interdisciplinary approach, a sector leader has said.
Jim Newton, global market development director of McLaren Applied Technologies, told the Times Higher Education Asia Universities Summit how the UK-based company’s technological expertise is used in Formula 1 and the production of supercars. But the company now uses those skills developed in F1 in data management and predictive analytics, in work for businesses and organisations in sectors such as energy and healthcare.
Mr Newton cited a collaboration between the firm and University of Oxford researchers, focused on improving quality of healthcare, which “relies on our simulation capability” to deliver “better decision-making in clinical care pathways”. This project is about to enter the pilot stage with a healthcare trust in the UK, he said.
Mr Newton said that universities would have a key role in delivering a new generation of skilled graduates for a world where intelligent devices built with engineering, electronics, design and computing expertise, such as autonomous vehicles, will be central – picking up on the fourth industrial revolution theme that ran throughout the summit.
“The engineers of tomorrow will need new levels of creativity, new levels of appreciation of other disciplines and the potential that those other disciplines can provide to connect with engineering,” he said.
There was a need to “look not only at [the] skills of science, technology and maths, but to go beyond STEM, to go beyond those skills and say ‘OK, what do we need to lay around there to ensure those skills are still relevant for industry and the world’.”
There was a role for universities to “prepare the pioneering minds of the future with those cross-sector, interdisciplinary skills”, he said.
Mr Newton referred to the path of his own career, having joined McLaren Applied Technologies “as a technologist from the telecoms world with a computer science degree – certainly not an engineer in the traditional sense and most certainly not a mathematician or an analytics expert”.
The combination of different skills such as electronics designers and quantum physicists working on race strategy made for a “tremendous mix” at the company, he said.