Research Projects

Helping organisations be more effective in their operations

Workers in an office

Current research projects

Future Engineering System: Data visualisation and usability evaluation

Project staff: Mandip Johal and Dr Des Leach

Funding: Rolls-Royce Plc & Innovate UK

Project dates: April 2016February 2019

Overview: The Future Engineering System (FES) is being developed in collaboration with numerous strategic partners including Rolls-Royce, Siemens, University of Sheffield, eQ Technologic, Sysemia and CFMS.The overarching objective of the research is to advance design engineering for the benefit of the engineering industry and UK economy.

The FES aims to reduce the cost and improve efficiency of design engineering by integrating design data and a) computationally testing how different design parameters for parts of an engine, will affect the engine as a whole and b) presenting engineers with simulated views of an engine and integrated data sets.

By doing these two things, engineering organisations can more quickly and accurately evaluate whether an engine design is worth progressing to manufacturing, thus saving time and money. This desired future state contrasts with the current situation wherein engineers do not know whether an engine design will work as expected until it is manufactured and physically tested which is extremely time-intensive and costly, particularly when a design fails. 

The role of the Socio-Technical Centre in this project is twofold. Using our research skills and knowledge of socio-technical systems, we will:

  • Conduct research with subject matter experts to understand what data people need to perform their job effectively, and in what format they want this data.
  • Conduct usability testing of the different FES interfaces developed by our strategic partners and provide feedback and guidance to them so that usability is maximised.    

Key topics: Usability, data visualisation, human-computer interaction, technology implementation, change management, process improvement, decision-making.

EU Horizon 2020 IMPACT Project

Impact of Cultural Aspects in the Management of Emergencies in Public Transport

Project staff: Dr Mark Robinson, Katarzyna Cichomska, Dr Matthew Davis

Funding: European Commission

Project dates: May 2015 – October 2017

Overview: EU Horizon 2020 IMPACT Project investigates influence of cross-cultural aspects on the behaviour and management of crowds during emergencies in transport terminals. The project focuses on three major transport domains: aviation, rail and maritime.

The IMPACT Project Consortium comprises eight partners from six countries, including University of Leeds (UK), VU University Amsterdam (NL), Varna University of Management (BG), Anadolu University (TR), Deep Blue (IT), PROPRS Ltd. (UK), Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (IT), and Maritime Office in Gdynia (PL).

Within the IMPACT Project, University of Leeds is leading Work Package 1 (WP1) which focuses on the development of a psycho-social and cross-cultural theoretical framework of crowd behaviour and management in transport terminals, and is also contributing to the work conducted as part of other work packages.

Key topics: Crowd behaviour, crowd management, cross-cultural, cultural differences, emergencies, transport

Objectives: The main objectives of the EU Horizon 2020 IMPACT project are to:

  • Develop a theoretical framework of cross-cultural and psycho-social crowd behaviour and management in transport terminals (WP1).
  • Develop a computational agent-based simulation model incorporating cultural aspects of human behaviour into crowd simulations and validating other project outputs (e.g., the theoretical framework and the communication solutions) (WP2).
  • Produce a cultural risk assessment methodology and mitigation actions (WP3). 
  • Develop multi-lingual Computer-Based Training (CBT) framework for public transport operators and first respondents, incorporating cultural aspects into risk assessment materials and procedures (WP3).
  • Design culture-specific emergency communication solutions to support effective communication between public transport operators and passengers (WP4).
  • Design a cultural-based multi-media training framework supporting management of emergencies in a multicultural site (WP5).
  • Disseminate best practices and policy recommendations to relevant stakeholders (WP6).
  • Promote communication, dissemination and exploitation of the IMPACT Project results in industrial and scientific domains (WP7).

The above tasks are based on the review of current best practice and academic literature, primary and secondary data collection and analyses, and validation activities, with input from passengers, IMPACT Project end-users, security and safety officials, public transport operators, and other stakeholders throughout all research stages.

Results and dissemination: Research conducted as part of WP1 led to the development of a theoretical framework describing various aspects of staff and passenger behaviour within a transport terminal in routine and emergency situations. The framework is based upon the integration of findings from the state-of-the-art literature review of crowd behaviour and management (Deliverable 1.1), data collection activities within Task 1.2 (Deliverable 1.2), and additional research activities forming part of Task 1.3 (reported in Deliverable 1.3). The framework considers both social and technical aspects of human behaviour in complex transport environments including elements such as the terminal profile and human characteristics, the physical environment of a transport terminal, staff and passenger activities within a terminal, passenger and staff behaviour and response during emergencies, and psycho-social and cross-cultural characteristics and their impact on human behaviour in transport terminals.

Three deliverables were completed as part of WP1:

  • Robinson, M. A., Cichomska, K., Davis, M., Minkov, M., Blagoev, V., van der Wal, N., Turhan, U., Karbownik, A., Giuricin, A., Rozzi, S., & Tedeschi, A. (2015). D1.1 – Review and Critical Analysis of Multi-Cultural Crowd Behaviour in Emergencies. IMPACT Project, report for the European Commission.  
  • Minkov, M., Cichomska, K., Robinson, M., Davis, M., Blagoev, V., Turhan, U., Giuricin, A., Dambra, C., Rozzi, S., Tedeschi, A., Golfetti, A. (2016). D1.2 – Empirical dataset and results. IMPACT Project, report for the European Commission.
  • Cichomska, K., Robinson, M., Minkov, M., Davis, M., Blagoev, V., van der Wal., N., Karbownik, A., Sengur, F., Turhan, U., Giuricin, A., Dambra, C., Rozzi, S., Tedeschi, A., & Golfetti, A. (2016). D1.3 – Theoretical framework of cross-cultural and psycho-social crowd behaviour and management in transport terminals. IMPACT Project, report for the European Commission.

Within the wider IMPACT Project, WP1 forms the theoretical foundation for all other work packages contributing to the development of a computational agent-based simulation model (WP2), cultural risk assessment methodology (WP3), cultural-based emergency communication framework (WP4), and cultural-based training framework (WP5).

For more information, visit the IMPACT Project website:

Organisational resilience: protecting and improving operational performance

Project staff: Rebecca PieniazekDr Mark Robinson, Dr Matthew Davis and previously the late Professor Chris Clegg 

Project dates: 2013 - Ongoing 

Background: Organisations face a plethora of internal and external threats (from natural disasters, regulatory changes, economic changes, staff shortages, to climate change etc). which can disrupt operational performance. 

Under situations of disruption, resilient organisations however, bounce back to normal functioning as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Resilience capabilities even enable organisations to capitalise on adversities and thrive. Furthermore, resilient organisations act proactively and often mitigate the occurrence of disruption despite various threats looming.

Objectives: The over-arching aim of this project is to help organisations protect and improve their functions, services and/or operations.

The research aims to explore:

  • How organisations can better understand, measure and improve their organisational resilience capability.
  • How organisational resilience is different to strategic management, risk management, crisis management, business continuity management, quality management etc.
  • How organisational communication, and internal socio-technical facets within an organisation, can be used to enable the benefits of organisational resilience capability. 
  • A business case for how organisational resilience capability drives operational performance, and financial efficiency. 

Participants: The project has sampled data from hundreds of organisations within the UK and has worked with two local city councils. 

Data collection has finished on this specific project for organisational resilience, however if you are interested in getting involved in further research into organisational resilience, please email Rebecca Pieniazek:

Why your organisation should participate in research into organisational resilience:

  • To learn about a framework for understanding organisational resilience
  • To gain tangible outputs on behaviours and resource-use at different organisational levels
  • To benchmark resilience behaviours and resource-use against desired levels and against other organisations
  • To identify cheaper (eg social instead of technical) ways of making business functions/operations more robust
  • To help organisations develop resilience, so in turn they achieve: less service down-time, greater competitive advantage and happier employees and customers
  • To evidence the business case for investing in organisational resilience capability through exploring the benefits of resilience capability on different organisational outputs, such as operational performance

Future developments: The project is currently collecting data from developing countries in order to explore how organisational resilience capabilities operate within organisations in those countries.

Embedding design structures in engineering information

Project Staff: Professor Alison McKayDr Mark RobinsonProfessor David HoggProfessor Christopher Earl, Dr Amar BeheraDr Hau Hing Chau 

Funding:  Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, a Design the Future project

Project dates: October 2015 – March 2017

Overview: Engineers use design structures, such as Bills of Materials (BoMs), to tailor product definitions, including shape, for particular activities. For example, an engineering BoM defines the as-designed product whereas a manufacturing BoM defines the as-built state of the same product. Both of these BoMs relate to the same designed product. However in practice, because of restrictions arising from current computer aided design technologies and associated business systems, different BoMs are often related to separate digital definitions of the same product. This creates significant data management problems that add cost, time and rework into product development processes. If resolved, substantial business benefits, through improved productivity of product development processes, could be achieved.

Key challenges for engineers lie in (a) understanding how the range of BoMs and other design structures of a given product relate to each other and the product itself, and (b) ensuring they have the best design structure(s) for specific tasks. For example, a BoM is a hierarchy of part-whole relationships that are useful when a product breakdown structure is needed whereas engineering design tasks typically need design structures that capture how the part being designed relates to the parts to which it must interface. In this second type of [lattice] structure, assembly mating relationships are needed. These and other kinds of connection relationship are fundamentally different to the part-whole relationships of a BoM.

The project team brings together researchers from engineering design and associated information systems, organisational psychology, mathematics and computing. We are working with industrial and other end user partners to define case studies and use them to support demonstrations of how embedding might be implemented and used to enhance real-world engineering design, manufacturing and through life support processes.

Investigating job crafting from a prosocial perspective

Project staff: Anna Viragos, Dr. Desmond Leach, Dr. Matthew Davis

Project dates: 10/2014 - 09/2018

Overview: Research shows that helping efforts towards colleagues and/or service recipients can have a number of beneficial consequences, for example increased engagement, improved performance, and customer satisfaction. In addition, a culture of helpful behaviours within the organization can lead to a better work environment and improved teamwork, resulting in reduced staff turnover rates. Today, many employees feel the need to find a little ’extra’ meaning in their jobs, and making a positive difference is a great way to satisfy this need. With this project, I aim to help companies understand how they can facilitate and support prosocial and proactive behaviours within the workforce.

Key topics: job design, job crafting, proactivity, prosocial behaviours, employee engagement, employee performance, job satisfaction


  • To collect data on proactive and prosocial employee behaviours
  • To explore how different groups of employees feel about helping and proactive behaviours towards colleagues and/or customers, and when they are more likely to take part in these behaviours.
  • To examine how these behaviours contribute to the performance, engagement and job satisfaction of employees.

Getting involved: The research is open to any organization that is interested in how to improve the performance and engagement of their workforce. There are no costs involved, just access for data collection.

Why your organisation should get involved: Ideas for staff development and management practices will be offered, based on the research findings

If you are interested to find out more details or getting involved with this project, please email Anna Viragos: