Jonathan Aylen

Jonathan Aylen

Dr, Dr

Personal profile

Biography

Jonathan is honorary senior research fellow in the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research within Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester, England and was a founder director of MIoIR. Jonathan has a very varied career, as an economist - winning a Partnership Trust Award for innovative teaching in economics – and as an engineer, an innovation researcher and in environmental management. He won the Williams prize for materials science.

Dr Aylen was President of the Newcomen Society for the History of Engineering and Technology (2019-2022)  He was previously an elected member of their national Council and became Vice-Pesident of the Society in 2016.  He is a former President of Manchester Statistical Society.

Jonathan Aylen was an Associate Editor of R&D Management 2014-2016.  He was Conference Chair for the R&D Management Conference in 2013. He frequently broadcasts on steel and related industrial issues. He was a member of the Resesearch Excellence Framework 2021 sub-panel for History.

Research interests

Jonathan’s current research focuses on four very diverse interdisciplinary areas: the management of R&D, the history of technology, wildfires and climate change.

He has won two “best paper” prizes - receiving the Williams Award of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining in 2007 for published work on time series forecasting with Kevin Albertson and an €1,000 award from Promote, the Centre for Management of Innovation in Process Industry in Luleå, Sweden for a paper on “Stretch” subsequently published in R&D Management in 2013.

A recent book on wide strip mill technology, Ribbon of Fire written with an Italian colleague, is about technology transfer from the USA to Europe. He retains his engineering interest in rolling technology and is a former member of the Bulk Metal Forming Committee, a technical committee of the Technology and Materials Science Division of IOM3. He advised the steel company, Corus (now Tata), for 18 years on forecasting, foresight, investment in new technology and knowledge management issues. He was a keynote speaker for international conferences on Mill Performance (2014) and on Rolls (2015). He gave the Burns Lecture to the Defence Electronics History Society in 2019.

His work on wildfires concentrates on the likelihood and consequences of fires. He has just completed a NERC funded project on Wildfire Threat led by Julia McMorrow (Geography, Manchester) working with the Forestry Commission to analyse the risk, spread and impact of wildfire. His research on wildfire work has helped inform policy and practice towards fire risk. Two jointly authored papers on wildfire appeared in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, June 2016.

His latest work on weather and climate with Gina Cavan and Kevin Albertson was published in Climatic Change, following earlier published work in Climate Research and the Journal of Environmental Management.

His research on history looks at Cold War technology and at how the world went digital in areas such as missile guidance, process plant control and railway management. He published papers in 2015 and 2016 on the technology of nuclear weapon design which contradict received wisdom on the issue.  

Research interests

He has worked with the National Railway Museum in York on computerisation of British Railways, focussing on their TOPS system.  This follows earlier research on the history of process control computers in steel, chemicals and defence. This research is evolving into the pre-history of the web.

He is also working on refugee engineers with a focus on those escaping persecution from Nazism before WW2.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Trying to Secure the Past: innovation studies and the history of technology, The University of Manchester

External positions

Member of History Sub-Panel, REF2021, UK Research and Innovation

Dec 2020Apr 2022

President, Newcomen Society, Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research

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