We Shine the Spotlight on Professor Iain Gray

We Shine the Spotlight on Professor Iain Gray

In this edition, we shine the spotlight on Professor Iain Gray, Director of Aerospace and member of the Senior Management team at Cranfield University. 

What is your role?

I’m a Professor and Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University, which is my main position. I also have a number of other key roles that I hold with other organisations. I am the Chairman of the Bristol Aero Collection Trust, which is responsible for Aerospace Bristol, a new industrial heritage museum and learning centre for aerospace, based in Filton, Bristol. The facility will open in 2017, telling the story of Bristol’s aerospace industry, protecting the legacy of the past and building a skills centre for the future. I am a Non-Executive Director for a materials based company, Versarien, which has an ambition of creating game changing advanced material solutions and becoming the UK’s leading market player for graphene. I am also Vice President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's National Academy of Science & Letters, and I am the chair of their Business & Innovation Forum. All of these activities take a significant amount of time but precede my day job as Director of Aerospace at Cranfield. 

Iain Gray Use SmallWhat do you enjoy most about your role?

My career has been built around aerospace and technology, with innovation and leadership roles in those areas. I’ve got aerospace in my blood. My role at Cranfield provides me with a great opportunity to combine all the experiences that I have built up, first in industry, second in the public sector and now in the world of academia. Having the fortune to be able to experience industry, public sector and academia throughout my career is a fairly unique characteristic. I very much enjoy everything about aerospace and helping to shape future agenda’s, the technology agenda, to develop the workforce of the future and to inspire other people to be interested in aerospace. This is what motivates me.

What’s your background?

I joined Cranfield in March 2015 after many years working with Airbus and BAE Systems. I spent the previous eight years as the Chief Executive of Innovate UK, formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board. For my university education, I completed an Engineering Science honours degree at Aberdeen University, and have a Masters in Philosophy from Southampton University. I have also been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Bath, Bristol, Aberdeen, Aston and Exeter Universities. In 2014, I was awarded a CBE in the New Years Honours List for my contribution to innovation, science and technology.

Thinking back to Iain Gray out of university, was aerospace,9Vtxwy60fhl4l9nb0has65b Kfg6jldahyxpg6qn3zy Nz9zee7lr6snbasgy7riz Quubpc6em9qvv2mgzwg0 innovation and being a leader something that you envisaged your career path would take?

I was very much inspired during the late 60’s and early 70’s by what was happening in the world of aerospace around Concorde. In fact, it was Concorde that inspired my interest in aerospace and to take a visit to Bristol to see the aircraft being built. This visit made my mind up for me, confirming that I wanted to join the aerospace industry and to move to a job in Bristol. I put my interest down to the particular developments with Concorde, which has played a key role through both my professional and in my social interests, hence my motivations with being involved in the Bristol Aero Collection Trust, and the aerospace industry context of what we had, and what inspires people.

What are you most looking forward to? Any predictions for the future?

Aerospace is still a subject that fascinates people. As a global industry in its own right, the opportunities to work in a global sector are very important. The thing that inspires me is the support across government, industry, research organisations and small to large organisations. The emphasis through the aerospace strategy is to develop a roadmap that provides challenges in the short and the longer term. If I was to look forward to 2050 and the challenges about the environment and expectations about a more integrated transport system, I am sure this will lead to the development of a different kind of aerospace product. These future products will look very different to those that are in place today taking account of the significant impact of digital and digitalisation. The impact of digital on the combined aerospace and aviation industry, and the integration of digital capabilities into aircraft and airport environments is a very exciting prospect for the future.

If you were stranded on a desert Island, what three items would you take with you?

It would have to be my phone, a bottle of malt whisky and a plate of cheese. A phone is no longer a phone, and mine contains my entire music and photograph collection not to mention contacts. What I have on my phone in essence kind of captures my life. A bottle of malt, may seem like a luxury but if you’re on a desert island, is a small luxury to enjoy, and to accompany it, a selection of cheese.

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