Name: Citlalli Ruiztrejo       Nationality: Mexican

Citlalli Ruiztrejo

PhD short title: Feasibility study on maize husk as resource for a novel composite material.

Research summary: The steady demand and production increase of grains has encouraged the study of alternative uses and approaches to deal with the inevitable generated residues. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to develop a maize husk-based composite at a lab scale through a novel transdisciplinary systemic design approach (SDA). The SDA framework was developed from a design point of view to confront the concerns of the increasing agro-waste production in Mexico; as well as looking into the social, environmental, technical and economic implications. The study and characterisation of this copious material as an alternative for the manufacture of a composite material (maize-husk-based fibreboard) offered advantages such as availability, renewability and more importantly the possibility to adopt the developed SDA to other similar agro-waste fibres to reduce the local pollution levels.

Why I came to Cranfield: This project started during my BA last year, however, it required a deeper and more specialised level. At Cranfield, I had access to resources needed to manage the project between two main disciplines: design and material sciences. This is an area I have been working on for some time now and gave me the chance to contribute and explore the designer's reach within the material sciences.

Funder: National Council of Science and Technology (Mexico) (CONACyT).


Name: Omar Huerta       Nationality: Mexican

Omar Huerta

PhD short title: Feasibility study of a novel bio-based material through a design thinking approach.

Research summary: Current environmental challenges require more holistic and systemic models of innovation to enable the consideration of real-world sustainability constraints. My research focuses on the development of a bio-based material from agro-industrial by-products using design thinking as a framework to enable sustainability innovation in new material developments. The core part of the work presents the actual development and characterisation of an Agave tequilana Weber and poly(lactic acid)-based material through each step of the process.

Why I came to Cranfield: I decided to join Cranfield University because they offered me the opportunity and freedom to research and explore an area I was keen on, and they have trusted me and guided me through the process since the beginning.

Funder: National Council of Science and Technology (Mexico) (CONACyT).


Name: Samantha Lourdes Sebastiampillai       Nationality: Sri Lankan

Samantha Lourdes Sebastiampillai

MRes short title: Development of a novel screening test using rapid automated bacterial impedance technique (RABIT) to determine biodegradability of a material.

Research summary: In this age of mass linear consumption, plastics are one of the most popular materials used. As a result, in natural environments, for example, marine environments are being severely impacted. To minimise the effect on the environment, a biodegradable material must substitute the current plastics being used. However, testing for bio-degradability with existing tests can be incredibly time intensive and have limited testing capacity. Therefore, the development of this rapid screening test using RABIT will aid material developers determine the potential for biodegradability in a simple way and shorter time frame.

Why I came to Cranfield: I joined Cranfield as an MSc in Environmental Water Management student, during which I did a group project in design and was fortunate enough to work with my supportive supervisor Adriana who later apprised me of my current MREs project. This project allows me to apply my skills learned into an imperative cause that not only aims at protecting the environment but also looks at innovative solutions for the future.

Funder: COOL MILK.


Name: Yuri Jiang       Nationality: Chinese

Yuri Jiang

PhD short title: Application of computer vision and machine learning for spatially accurate object representation in AR/VR.

Research summary: AR and VR are areas of exponential growth, yet build upon the foundation of CV and ML. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to combine existing understanding of CV and ML with gained insights in AR/VR. It mainly focuses on tracking/localisation and mapping/camera pose estimation/SLAM and anything related to the location, positioning, and mapping of the real-world environment necessary to deliver rich VR/AR experiences on mobile and hardware devices. The study of combining CV and ML with AR/VR offers advantages such as significant runtime savings and makes the system suitable for real-time operation. More importantly, it improves the possibility to obtain accurate visual localisation and provides better occlusion relationship between virtual objects and real objects.

Why I came to Cranfield: This project is a collaboration between the Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield and the OrangeLV. At Cranfield, I have access to breakthrough innovation facilities and highly experienced staff, and OrangeLV is an expert in visualisation and application design for AR/VR/WMR/mobile with software solutions. This collaboration allows me to get feedback on research projects from a practical perspective. The project gives me the opportunity to contribute and explore the study of combining CV and ML with AR/VR.

Funder: The Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield and OrangeLV.


Name: Binxin Zhu (Sally)       Nationality: Chinese

PhD short title: Study on incentive mechanisms for solvers in SMEs crowdsourcing contest innovation.

Research summary: As a major component of economy and society, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a vital role in promoting development and stabilising the economy. Due to the limited investment in R&D funds and the low conversion rate of innovation input, SMEs have a more urgent desire of using crowdsourcing innovation than other types of enterprises. However, the primary issue of applying crowdsourcing innovation in SMEs is to choose the right model of crowdsourcing innovation. This research seeks to address the internal and external driving factors of solver’s participation in crowdsourcing contest innovation, focusing specifically on the economic incentives, reputation incentives, and knowledge-sharing incentives on the path of solver’s participation behaviour. Also, the effectiveness illustration of the above incentives is one of the most important focus points in our research.

Why I came to Cranfield: I know Cranfield because of its collaboration with my host university – Jiangsu University (China). The main content of the collaboration includes the cooperation in running schools and joint training of double degree programmes. After the introduction of Cranfield University itself and the joint training programme, C4D (Centre for Competitive Creative Design) caught my eye. Driven by great interest in innovation, I am keen on designing useful strategies which are useful for SMEs to survive and innovate in today’s extraordinarily competitive world. C4D is the centre with characteristics of frontier research leading in the field of strategic innovation, close connection with companies and interdisciplinarity which highly cater to my PhD study needs including strategy design, corporate research and the master of knowledge in management and design.

Funder: Chinese Scholarship Council.


Name: James Vickery       Nationality: British

PhD short title: Detecting VUCA.

Research summary: My research focuses on helping thought leaders and senior decision makers make sense of the external environment, particularly VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) events. There is a wealth of research on how to respond to VUCA and the internal skills and leadership traits organisations need, but no coverage on identification of VUCA early to enable course changes.

Why I came to Cranfield: Cranfield's reputation was the main draw, particular the design school (C4D) and its global placing. The facilities were world class and the research staff extremely approachable.

Funder: Self-funded.


Name: Gary Fox       Nationality: British

Gary Fox

PhD short title: Design of digital ecosystems.

Research summary: One of the most profound effects of the last decade has been the transformative effects of digital technologies, which have given rise to new products/services as well as business models. However, existing business model frameworks do not adequately incorporate digital technologies nor take into account digital ecosystems. Thus, the purpose of the research is to develop a framework for designing digital ecosystems that support business model innovation. The study will benefit practitioners and entrepreneurs in creating new digital ventures as well as provide a valuable contribution to the nascent research into digital ecosystems.

Why I came to Cranfield: I chose to study at Cranfield because it translates theory into practice. By partnering with industry leading organisations Cranfield demonstrates how innovative research can make an impact in the world.

Funder: Self-funded.


Name: Halid Abu-Bakar       Nationality: British

Halid Abu-Bakar

PhD short title: Data-driven innovation: water demand management.

Research summary: Currently, I am doing a PhD in Data-Driven Innovation. My research focuses on an integrated data-driven approach towards measuring and quantifying household water consumption and the development of a novel feedback mechanism for the delivery of consumption feedback to induce a change in water consumption behaviour. I have collaborated with many institutions to run design sprint events and hackathons, most recently with the European Centre for Participatory Media on the subject of water sustainability. I am also an active collaborator with the Milton Keynes Council Power Project initiative to tackle a plethora of environmental and sustainability issues. I am a strategic designer with a rich background in data-driven visual communication. I hold a degree in Multimedia Technology and Design, a master's in Digital Visual Effects and another master's in Design Strategy and Leadership. Having worked in different design capacities on several award winning projects for over 15 years across both the private and public sectors, my strengths include applying novel research methodologies, design techniques and data-driven approaches, including machine learning, to finding and solving problems. A keen proponent of circular economy and design for sustainability, I was shortlisted for the RSA student’s award on circular design in 2018.

Why I came to Cranfield: I chose Cranfield for multiple reasons. Firstly, I was attracted to Cranfield’s reputation in providing excellent research opportunities and the wealth of facilities to conduct research. Secondly, Cranfield’s links with industry and the richly diverse credentials of the academic staff won me over.

Funder: EPSRC and Anglian Water.

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Name: Ji Yijing       Nationality: Chinese

Ji Yijing

PhD short title: Human sensory interaction experience within the museum exhibition space.

Research summary: This research focuses on observing the behaviour of visitors in a busy museum or exhibition space through multi-sensory experiences. The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between space, artefacts, and people. To obtain a better understanding as to how multi-sensory interactions strengthen and consolidate people's short-term and long-term memory.

Why I came to Cranfield: C4D encourages students, researchers and industry partners to use design thinking to achieve innovation. The close connection with industry and practical application of research is excellent. In addition, my supervisor Professor Leon Williams has a wealth of experience and knowledge.