Professor Alison McKay


Alison joined the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds in 1984 as a research engineer and gained her PhD in 1996.


  • Director of the Leeds Socio-Technical Centre (
  • Enterprise and Innovation Discovery Theme leader (
  • Design Office Lab Captain (

Research interests

My research centres on socio-technical aspects of engineering design systems and the networks of organisations that both develop and deliver products to market, and support them through life to disposal or reuse. The focus of my personal research lies in the establishment of systematic and, where possible, well-founded underpinnings for such systems, in particular, for the definition of product data. This has led to research on extended enterprise network structures and their alignment with the delivery of business strategy, issues in environmental and social dimensions of sustainable product design, and the establishment of computer aided design systems to support early design activity (when new shapes are being defined) and so enhance designers’ creativity and innovation. My research is positioned within the context of stage gate processes that typify current industry practice. It aims to facilitate improved modes of working through the exploitation of digital technology and to establish design methods and tools to support systematic evaluation of design alternatives at decision gates.

My research activities include publicly funded and industry-led projects with small and large companies. The following are a selection of my publicly funded projects.


  • BEng (Hons)
  • PhD
  • PG Certificate in Learning & Teaching in Higher Education
  • PG Diploma in Learning & Teaching in Higher Education

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the IMechE
  • Member of the Design Society

Student education

Alison's teaching is in the area of engineering and product design.  She teaches on modules to undergraduate, Masters and research students and supervises  final year projects for Product Design and mechanical engineering students in subject areas related to her research.

Two recent educational initiatives that she has led are:

  • the launch of a new multi-disciplinary undergraduate programme in Product Design (2001-2013) that has created over 400 graduates (BSc, BDes & MDes);
  • the establishment of a coherent collection of University-wide elective modules in the area of Enterprise & Innovation, in the role of a Discovery Theme leader, part of the Leeds Curriculum initiative (2013-2016).

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Integrated Energy Research
  • Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation