University of Nottingham engineers enlist Creative in Residence to inspire research

A research group at the University of Nottingham has hired a Creative in Residence to bring the worlds of engineering and art together for the first time in the university’s history.

The appointment is part of a collaboration between the Power Electronics and Machines Centre (PEMC) Research Group and Lakeside Arts, which aims to cultivate an environment that will inspire creativity and aid professional development in engineers.

Selected as the Faculty of Engineering’s first Creative in Residence is Jo Fairfax, a Midlands-based artist who extracts current technological principles and weaves them into his projects, bringing a human touch to the technological world.

Professor Pat Wheeler, Head of the Power Electronics, Machines and Control Research Group, said: “Having a certain level of creativity can be crucial to the advancement of our research projects, but it’s sometimes something that can unfortunately be lacking. As someone who’s always been interested in the arts, I felt enlisting an artist’s skills would provide us with the perfect opportunity to inspire innovation in the group by bringing art into an engineering context.

“We want to focus on sustainability and the inspiration of our technology and applications, so Jo was the perfect fit for us due to the nature of his work. After the official opening of the brand-new PEMC building earlier this year, now is the perfect time to do something different and I can’t wait to see what the finished result will look like.”

As part of his residency, Jo will be working alongside members of the research group, delivering workshops and talks to not only create the artwork, but also help further the individuals’ professional development.

Jo Fairfax, Creative in Residence at PEMC, said: “This is such an amazing opportunity to work with some amazing and vibrant minds who are researching the edges of electronic power at the PEMC. I anticipate being inspired by the staff and their exciting work. I will bring an openness, creativity and enthusiasm to our meetings and hope that we embark on an unprecedented journey of discovery for all of us. I love combining elements from traditionally separated realms and hope that there is an opportunity to mix things up within the PEMC and collectively produce something special.

“I’ve always enjoyed blending art, science, technology and engineering, so this residency is like drinking nectar for my head, heart and soul. I think that both industries are perfect companions, with potentially surprising parallels between them such as the creative and analytical processes required to culminate in beautiful and resonating conclusions.”

James Parkinson, Head of Business Development and Deputy Director at Lakeside Arts, said: “Jo’s residency is part of a wider initiative to immerse creatives into the amazing research that goes on at the University of Nottingham. Lakeside Arts aims to broker these kinds of opportunities, which bring together academics and artists, to explore and experiment in partnership.

“The research methods of an artist can differ greatly to that of an academic, expected outcomes and even language used to express ideas can be poles apart, so relationship building, and mutual understanding is key to the success of this project. Jo is both an inventor and an artist and has been designing for public and private spaces since 1996. Conversations about his projects are never dull and always inspirational, his consideration for sustainability and the environment in public art make him a perfect fit for PEMC.

“It’s important for the project that we have no predefined outcomes, the residency may unearth many different approaches to collaboration that could lead to an exhibition, a commission or new research questions. Whichever it is, I am sure it will be a wonderous journey for all those involved.”