Contact Professor Colin Pilbeam


Dr Colin Pilbeam is a multi-disciplinary research scientist with extensive experience of managing collaborative research projects internationally. He has a passion for doctoral education and gained Senior Fellowship of Higher Education Academy in 2019.

Colin Pilbeam received his MA in Agriculture and Forest Sciences from Oxford and his PhD in Agricultural Botany from the University of Reading. An MBA from the University of Reading preceded a prize-winning DBA in Higher Education Management from the University of Bath.

Colin Pilbeam joined Cranfield University School of Management in 2000 as Manager of Research Programmes, and was appointed as Senior Research Fellow in 2005. He was promoted to Principal Research Fellow in 2013, to Reader in Safety Leadership in 2018 and then to Professor of Organizational Safety in 2021. Between 2005 and 2011 he was Director of the PhD programme in School of Management recognised as 'world-leading' by an independent panel review in 2008.

He served on the executive council of the British Academy of Management as co-Vice Chair for Special Interest Groups in 2018-19.

Research opportunities

Dr Colin Pilbeam is keen to recruit doctoral students, especially those with experience of organizational safety. While open to your suggestions for research projects, he is particularly interested in investigating:

the effects of macro-factors (including national cultures) on organizational safety culture

the tension between safety and productivity and how this is managed

the contribution of training to safe working

the role of leadership in delivering safety performance

the ways organizations can learn from accident and incident reports, and why they fail

Current activities

Dr Colin Pilbeam is Professor of Organizational Safety, based in the Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre. He is also an Adjunct Professor in School of Aviation and Transportation Technology, Purdue University, USA.

His research focuses in how organizational structures, processes and practices influence safe working and organizational safety performance. Recent projects funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) have investigated safety leadership in service organisations and the management of safety in outsourced relationships. The Lloyds Register Foundation has funded work on the influence of context on the design of safety interventions. Together with industry sponsored projects on safety leadership and safety culture with Network Rail, Laing O'Rourke and Highlands and Islands Airports Limited. These form part of a career portfolio of managed research projects valued at more than £3.5m.

His current doctoral research students contribute to our understanding of organizational safety. Their projects investigate:

· Effects of national culture on organizational safety climate

· Effects of hierarchy and time on perceptions of organizational safety climate

· Decoupling of safety practices from written procedures

· Establishing and maintaining resilience in organizational systems

· Using semiotics to interpret the representations of safety created by conventional safety tools

He is working with the University Côte d'Azur to develop safety leadership training in the nuclear industry funded by the EU.

Colin Pilbeam is a module leader on four MSc courses:

MSc in Through Life System Sustainment (Leadership and Change Management module)

MSc in Operations Excellence (Leading Change in Operations module)

MSc in Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (Ethics, Safety and Regulation module)

MSc in Aviation Safety Management Risk and Reliability (Responding to Risk in Sociotechnical systems)

He is also a module leader for 'Critical Thinking Skills' on the Doctor of Business Administration degree programme in the School of Management. He regularly runs masterclasses on 'Working with Literature' at Cranfield, at other UK universities and at the annual British Academy of Management doctoral symposium.


  • Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
  • Lloyd's Register Foundation
  • Siemens AG
  • GSK plc
  • Costain Group plc
  • Kuehne + Nagel International AG
  • Waitrose Ltd
  • Argos Ltd (J Sainsbury plc)
  • Network Rail
  • Laing O'Rourke


Articles In Journals

Conference Papers