Impulse To Innovation
Season 2 Episode 2: On Track for New Travel - Decarbonising & Automating our Railways

Season 2 Episode 2: On Track for New Travel - Decarbonising & Automating our Railways

March 1, 2021

In this month’s episode we are focusing on Railways and rail technology and how one of the world’s oldest forms of mass transit is changing the way we think about climate change.  We also discuss automation and how the heavy rail industry may one day adopt well-tested technologies used on our metro trains. 


George Stephenson looms large in the minds of most mechanical engineers when you ask them to think of an engineering icon.  Indeed, the earliest history of our institution was born from the steam and motion of those early technological developments of the 1800s. But while George and his like would still recognise the rails and the roar, todays locomotives and the services they provide across continents, would be beyond even his wildest dreams. And those early engineers would certainly be unaware of the global impact their technology would eventually have on international economics, environment and society. 


Today the UK rail is a £20Bn industry with £881m of that generated by Freight transportation. In 2019 passengers travelled over three-and-a-half trillion kilometres on the world’s rail networks, with three-quarters of rail passenger movements and half of rail freight relying on electricity as the main form of power. And indeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that Global transport emissions could peak in the 2030s if railways are “aggressively” expanded, particularly as they are “uniquely positioned” to take advantage of the rise of renewables in the electricity mix, making Rail among the most efficient and lowest emitting modes of transport. 

But moves to expand rail networks is not without controversy and the environmental impact of large-scale rail construction projects  and the level of disturbance caused by railways due to noise and vibration, air, soil and water pollution, and soil erosion continue to provoke serious debate. 

Useful Links:


Helen's guests this month are both rail engineers and have spent much of their lives following that ‘permanent way’.  

Malcolm Dobell has over 45 years experience in the industry. He was Head of Train Systems Engineering for the London Underground for much of that time, Leading the 300 strong Rolling Stock, Signalling, Track, and Power engineering teams who provide engineering services to the undergrounds. He is also a former IMechE Railway Division Chairman and a current board member, and helps to organise and judge the annual Railway Challenge. Malcom and I discussed the benefits of automation of rail services, the challenges facing rail engineers in designing safety systems and what other innovations we might see on the railway in the future. 

Useful Links:,to%20the%20infrastructure%20capacity%20limits.


Helen chats to retired railway engineer and Rail Engineer magazine editor, David Shirres about the impact of decarbonisation on the UK rail network and how a blend of different energy sources will provide new opportunities for the rail industry.  David has worked in rail safety and compliance for much of his career and has managed a number of large-scale construction projects to improve safety and utilities management across the rail network. David is an ardent supporter of electrification and is keen to ensure wider society understands the impact the railway has on our environment and our energy consumption. 

Useful Links:


We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode or about your experiences, interest or work in Rail and Rail Technologies. If you would like to get in touch email us at

You can find more information about the work of the IMechE at 


Season 2 Episode 1: Looking Skyward - How Satellite Technology is Changing Our View of Space

Season 2 Episode 1: Looking Skyward - How Satellite Technology is Changing Our View of Space

February 1, 2021

In this month’s episode we turn our attention skyward, to the captivating world of space and specifically satellite technology.

Humankind’s fascination with the cosmos has never really waivered, but last year saw a resurgence in interest, after a 9 year absence, of a fully-reusable space vehicle and its first human crew; when Behnken and Hurley took off in the Dragon capsule atop the falcon 9 rocket.

But the launch of satellites is often met with much less fanfare, yet we couldn’t live our technology-driven lives and we certainly wouldn’t have learnt about the wonders beyond our solar system without them. In fact, of the 104 successful space flights last year, 80% of them were to put satellite technologies into space. So what can we learn from these complex technologies?

Useful Links:


Helen’s guests this month are both enthusiastic engineers working in different areas of the satellite technology industry. They are driven by their fascination for how they operate, communicate and how they are changing the way we preserve the universe.

Helen chats with Christine Brockley-Blatt, Senior Project Manager at Mullard Space Science Laboratory and fellow of the IMechE. Chris has worked on Beagle 2; the British Mars Lander, and the SPIRE instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope which is due to launch in 2021. She is now the Project Manager of the VIS Instrument on the Euclid Space Telescope. Chris took time out of her day to talk to Helen about building satellites and how her 14 years of dedication to the recently launched Solar Orbiter will tell us more about the physics of our sun than ever before.

Useful Links:


Mike Lawton is an electronic & electrical engineer and serial space technology entrepreneur. He certainly knows a thing or two about squeezing large satellite structures into small spaces and has built an award-winning business innovating deployable assemblies for the satellite industry, such as solar panel arrays, antennas and boom systems. His motivation is to challenge tried and tested techniques by creating lighter, less complex and lower cost systems for satellite manufacturers. Helen talks to Mike about solar array origami, the problems with space debris and how engineers are finding ways to re-use old satellites while still in space.


We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode or about your experiences, interest or work in Space & Satellite Technology. If you would like to get in touch email us at

You can find more information about the work of the IMechE at 


Episode 5: Holiday Special - Fireside Chat with Colin Brown & Terry Spall

Episode 5: Holiday Special - Fireside Chat with Colin Brown & Terry Spall

December 31, 2020

In this I2I Holiday Special Podcast, Helen looks back on 2020 with IMechE CEO Colin Brown and President Terry Spall and discusses how the pandemic has affected the IMechE and its members, and how they have had to adapt to these unprecedented times.

Terry talks about how his presidential year has meant less travelling, but more opportunity for engagement with members and how inspired he has been seeing so many engineers step up to address COVID.

Colin chats about the effect working from home has had on the IMechE staff, but how beneficial it has been bringing members from across the world together through virtual services.

Terry shares his thoughts on the new Governance Benchmark and how important that process has been for the Institution. Terry recognises the valuable input of all the members who have been committed to bringing about change over the last few years; including Past President Carolyn Griffiths, Implementation Group Chair Kerry Mashford and members of the Trustee Board.

In a look back at the 2019 annual report, Colin talks about his hope for 2020 being our ‘Year of Values’ and how members have addressed behaviours and culture in this new working paradigm. Colin highlights the importance of diversity and how all engineers need to feel that they can make a contribution to society.

Thinking about 2021, Terry looks forward with enthusiasm to the Institution’s future, and hopes more members will want to get involved in driving the IMechE’s strategies. His hope is to finally shake the hands of all those who have worked to implement change in the last few years. Terry also looks forward to work commencing on the IMechE building next year, which will ensure members have a historical yet contemporary home for the coming decades.

We could not end the interview without mentioning Colin’s intention to step down as CEO in May 2021. Having been a member of staff for 16 years and an IMechE member for many more years than is polite to mention, Helen asks Colin what his hopes for the Institution are, going forward and what he is most looking forward to doing in his ‘retirement’.


We wish all our listeners, wherever you are in the world, a safe and happy holiday season from all of us at the I2I Podcast.


Useful Links:


Episode 4: The Future of Electric Vehicles & Batteries

Episode 4: The Future of Electric Vehicles & Batteries

November 2, 2020

Episode 4 – The Future of Electric Vehicles and Batteries


In this month’s episode we will be focusing on Electric Vehicles and batteries; the challenges and opportunities electrification brings and what the future holds for EV technology. 


Helen talks with Williams Advanced Engineering Technical Director Paul McNamara about the up-coming IMechE International EV Batteries 2020 virtual Conference which will be held on the 11th and 12th of November. Paul is chair of the event and shares some of the exciting topics up for discussion, which include the challenges of transport decarbonisation, hybrid solutions, supply chain, battery cell sustainability, and life cycle management of battery materials. 

Useful Links:


Helen is joined by Stakeholder Engagement director at the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Philippa Oldham to discuss her role in bringing together organisations from across the transport industry to develop innovative strategies for EV integration. She shares her thoughts on the growth of the UK EV market, government strategies on funding and emissions targets and some of the opportunities in recycling over the coming years.

Useful Links:


Actor, Fully-Charged Host and passionate EV enthusiast, Robert Llewellyn talks to Helen about his love for science and engineering and what lead him to advocate for clean energy and EVs. Helen and Robert discuss the outcomes from Tesla Battery Day, the opportunities for vehicle to grid charging, UK government policy on electrification and EV city planning. 

Useful Links:


We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode or about your experiences, interest or work in electric vehicles and their associated technologies. Get in touch email us at 

Episode 3: Engineering Careers at the COVID Crossroads

Episode 3: Engineering Careers at the COVID Crossroads

October 5, 2020

This month’s episode is brought to you by the IMechE’s Young Members Board. The YMB represents the interests of over 69,000 young members from a broad range of industries and specialisms. The YMB works to ensure that the young member’s voice is heard and considered in all areas of the institution.

Your host is Ying Wan Loh, an IMechE chartered engineer and IET Young Engineer of the Year 2019. She is the professional development standards committee rep on the young members board.

In this month’s episode Ying explores three topics:

  • Challenges facing new workers
  • Furloughed and unemployed - tips to getting a job
  • The unsure worker - the importance of reskilling and training

With focus on engineering careers in the context of Covid-19.  She explores challenges and opportunities for young graduates and new workers, how to mitigate the impact of furlough and unemployment and provides some tips for those who are currently employed but thinking of other opportunities ahead.

Ying’s guests include:

Amar Gohil – Graduate Engineer WMG University of Warwick

Alan Carroll – Director Stratus Recruitment Ltd

Matthew Laskaj – Director Project Engineering Management Ltd & IMechE Scottish Region Chair


Challenges Facing New Workers

Ying discusses the challenges and opportunities faced by fresh graduates and new workers. The panel discusses how COVID-19 will change recruiting practices, how to ace online/phone interviews and how you should prepare for them, advice for fresh graduates looking for their first job, and those considering a PhD or further education.


Furloughed and Unemployed - Tips on getting a job

Ying explores how those at home on furlough might be feeling unsure or even nervous about their continued employment. The panel discusses whether gaps in your CV can put you at a disadvantage, advice on how engineers can structure their day to maximize their chances to get back into work and which engineering sectors may see major growth post-COVID.


The Unsure Worker - The importance of reskilling

With uncertainties in the job market, many are re-thinking their career options. Ying discusses working from home, professional development, online training and diversity and inclusion in the workplace, how people can continue to develop themselves professionally, how recruiters are ensuring a fair recruitment process in the light of the pandemic. The panel also discusses the benefits of professional accreditation, online Masters and Doctorates and the opportunities of developing entrepreneurial skills.


The IMechE offers a number of careers advice routes for those looking for job opportunities and CV development.  For members and their families, the Institution also has a Support Network. Useful links below:


Membership Surgeries are being held weekly across the Regions. They are free events online allowing you 1-2-1 time with an IMechE Business Development expert.

Visit the IMechE Near You page for your region 


The EngRec Live 2020, is a virtual careers and learning event for graduate and young engineers taking place 30th October. It is the UK’s first multi-sector virtual careers fair for the early careers in the engineering industry.

sign up at


If you have been impacted by the COVID crisis or any of the issues discussed in this episode, please reach out to the IMechE Support Network. They offer personal and practical support for members and their families. They can help with everything from employment coaching and CV writing, resources for dyslexia and autism, to debt advice, financial aid and counselling. If you wish to know more, please call on 020 7304 6816 or email

Episode 2: Engineering Solutions in Healthcare

Episode 2: Engineering Solutions in Healthcare

September 7, 2020

In this month’s episode we focus on Healthcare, and how engineers and the medical technology they design and use, is changing the way we keep society living long and healthy lives.


Helen puts global healthcare demand and the medtech industry into context, discussing the size and scale of the markets and the impact technology is having on our growing and ageing populations.  She also highlights some of the advances in the latest tech from around the world and what engineers are doing to overcome some of the major healthcare challenges facing society. 

Useful Links:  


Carly turns the tables on Helen, whose day job is in the medtech industry, and interviews her about the issues facing the UK’s NHS. They discuss UK Government strategies on technology adoption and what kind of technology will have the most impact on patient care in the future. 

Useful links: 


Jo Young, Healthcare Science Advisor for Health Education England chats with Helen about the workforce pipeline for clinical engineers in the NHS and how opportunities for careers in healthcare engineering are growing at a rapid rate.  Jo shares her thoughts on why STEM education is so important and why the latest healthcare engineering reports published by the IMechE are key to raising the profile of engineers in the healthcare and medtech sectors. 

Useful Links:  


We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode or about your experiences, interest or work in medtech and healthcare.

If you would like to get in touch email us at

You can find more information about the work of the IMechE at


Episode 1: Energy and Sustainability: Will the Global Pandemic Change the Way We Use Our Resources?

Episode 1: Energy and Sustainability: Will the Global Pandemic Change the Way We Use Our Resources?

August 3, 2020

In this month’s episode we focus on energy and sustainability and how the on-going global pandemic is changing the way people think about energy use, resources and materials.  


Helen puts energy sustainability into context; reviewing the world’s energy consumption in 2019 and which countries are making the most effort to go 100% renewable in the next 5 years. In a look at world-wide initiatives to drive sustainability, Helen shares some of the ‘good news’ stories from organisations and communities doing their bit to reduce resource consumption. 


Helen has an in-depth chat with two entrepreneurial women in the energy sector; Drs Laura Bishop and Kerry Mashford OBE, both of whom are IMechE members and recently women’s engineering society top 50 women in energy winners. They share their thoughts on sustainability, the built environment, careers in the sector and engaging society in energy programmes. 

Useful Links: 


IMechE Policy Officer Carly Nettleford chats with Helen about the IMechE’s Low carbon, local energy report, one year on from its publication and whether anything has changed in the interim. Carly discusses some of the initiatives underway in the UK. 



We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode or about your experiences, interest or work in energy sustainability. If you would like to get in touch email us at

You can find more information about the work of the IMechE at

IMechE Impulse to Innovation Podcast Trailer July 2020

IMechE Impulse to Innovation Podcast Trailer July 2020

July 20, 2020

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) is launching its first Podcast on the 3rd August 2020.

On the first Monday of each month we will be posting a new themed episode with news, interviews and stories from around the world, hosted by Chartered Engineer and IMechE member Dr Helen Meese.


Take a listen to the trailer to find out more about the August show, which will be focusing on Energy Sustainability and what this will mean to the world following the Covid pandemic.


If you're an engineer, interested in tech or just curious, then click our 'follow' button to get updates on future episode releases.

You can find more information about the Institution at