Working with business

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The Socio-Technical Centre (STC) offers advice and expertise on a wide range of business issues, from designing office environments to increase effectiveness, to encouraging staff to adopt pro-environmental behaviours. We use our unique interdisciplinary approach to support businesses in creating processes and environments that combine an understanding of human behaviour with technical expertise.

STC offers both academic rigour and commercial experience to tackle business issues head on and deliver real-world improvements. 

We actively seek areas of overlapping interest within which we can help resolve practical problems for organisations whilst at the same time making strong academic contributions to our field. 

STC has established long-term collaborative relationships with major clients such as Rolls-Royce plc and Arup

We offer:

  • Academic rigour
  • Independence of thought and ideas
  • Experience of state-of-the-art thinking
  • Expertise in understanding and changing human behaviour in complex systems
  • New approaches to the design of buildings, infrastructures, ways of working, and IT systems

Their work brings a new capability to the company and has made a substantial contribution to our improvements in design.

David Knott, Chief of Research and Technology, Design Systems Engineering, Rolls-Royce plc

Areas of expertise 

The STC team comprises experts from a variety of backgrounds, including: organisational psychology, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, engineering design, and geography.

We have applied the socio-technical approach to the following business areas:

  • Systems design (information and control)
  • Adoption behaviours (environmental and health and safety)
  • Building and job design/re-design
  • Modelling and simulation of processes
  • Compliance and participation behaviours
  • Organisational culture
  • Change management
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Crowd behaviour
  • Job crafting
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Proactivity
  • Personnel selection and development
  • Teamwork
  • Training
  • Leadership

Sectors worked in 

Our projects examine the relationships between technologies and human performance. As such, a large number of our clients are based in the manufacturing, automotive, or IT industries. We are very proud that we have worked for the last 10 years with Rolls-Royce plc as part of their global network of University Technology Centres; we are the only group of social scientists in the world working in this network.

Our clients have included both public and private sector organisations. Other areas worked in include:

  • Medical health trusts
  • Transportation
  • Charitable organisations
  • Retail services
  • Education 
  • Government and civil service


Dr Walter Lewis - Managing Director, Faraday

Project: Understanding and Promoting Collaborative Innovation Across Packaging Supply Chains

Project start date: January 2009

“I found the service provided by the Socio-Technical Centre to be professional, constructive and ultimately successful in generating a comprehensive report highlighting the key issues currently influencing the levels of collaborative innovation in fast moving consumer goods packaging supply chains. This report is of great use to all companies within packaging supply chains, providing good practice guidelines and future directions for promoting innovation. We hope to continue our relationship with the Centre and further this research in the very near future.”

Chris Jofeh – Director, Arup

Project: Going Green at Work

Project start date: May 2008

“We commissioned the Socio-Technical Centre to carry out research into ways in which to encourage pro-environmental - 'green' - behaviours concerned with energy, water and waste in existing buildings, focusing both on domestic and work environments. Following a detailed literature review of 165 relevant papers, book chapters and reports, along with interviews with a range of experts in the field of pro-environmental behaviours, the STC team prepared a comprehensive report for us.

This report highlighted the lack of research currently conducted in relation to greening behaviours in the workplace and stressed the need to adopt a socio-technical systems approach – ie considering both social and technical aspects in parallel – when carrying out any behavioural change. It also directed us towards many different intervention techniques, such as feedback, participation and goal-setting, which can be used to encourage green behaviours in the workplace. 

We have found these conclusions very helpful in understanding what is required to change people's workplace behaviours and have already begun to apply them in a number of our professional projects and practices. We are very keen to continue our excellent working relationship with the STC on future research projects in this area.”

Professor Dr G Keith Still – FIMA, Crowd Dynamics

Project: Understanding Crowd Behaviours

Project start date: January 2008

“I was more than happy to share my knowledge and expertise, contributing to this valuable and much needed research into crowds and how they behave. The reports are unique, in that they draw together the wealth of existing academic and practitioner knowledge, presenting good practice guidelines and lessons identified underpinned by sound psychological theory. They will be of great interest to all involved in our field.

Bruce Mann - Director, Civil Contingencies Secretariat

Project: Understanding Crowd Behaviours

Project start date: January 2008

“The “Understanding Crowd Behaviours” report series is the product of a year's research involving a detailed literature review and primary research with practitioners and specialists in the field. It summarises our knowledge, articulates our current understanding of good practice in crowd management and gives planners clear direction, and supporting information, regarding the safe assumptions that may be made about crowd behaviour. As such, this guidance fills what had been a significant gap in our canon of guidance, and contains information that will be of value to a broad cross-section of the public safety and resilience community."

David Knott – Chief of Research and Technology, Design Systems Engineering, Rolls-Royce plc

Projects: Various: Maximising Existing Workspace, How Engineers Spend Their Time, Organisational Network Analysis, Managing Organisational Change: Inter and Intra Team Working, High Performing and Robust Systems (HIPARSYS), and Strategic Investment in Low-Carbon Engine Technology (SILOET) 

Project start date: Since 1998

“Over the last 20 years Rolls-Royce plc has created a global system for undertaking research to meet its long term strategic needs, now having around 30 research centres in seven countries around the world.

As part of this programme, the company has been working with [the late] Professor Chris Clegg and colleagues since 1998. The vast majority of our global research partnerships focus on engineering capability, and Chris Clegg’s team is the only group of social scientists that we have funded in this network. Their work brings a new capability to the company and has made a substantial contribution to our improvements in design by influencing our thinking about the design process and how it should be organised and managed.”

Members of the STC are always keen to establish long term collaborative relationships with clients. If you are interested in working with the centre, please contact us.

We also contribute to the Business School's Executive Education courses.