Professor Alison McKay

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.  She is a member of the School of Mechanical Engineering’s Institute of Design, Robotics and Manufacturing, and was director of the Leeds Socio-Technical Centre (2014-2019).


  • Director of the Leeds Socio-Technical Centre (
  • 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, and PhD student projects. The following summarises my areas of interest and selected  publicly funded projects.

  • Design informatics:
    • EPSRC research projects on design and product configuration spaces (2015-2022)
    • University of Leeds Fund for International Research Collaboration meeting and white paper: "Design: Shape and Structure (decomposition/ description)" (2014) 
    • S4T - Service Support Solutions: Strategy and Transition. An EPSRC/BAE Systems Strategic Partnership Project (2008-09)
    • KIM: Knowledge and Information Management Through Life. An EPSRC/ESRC Grant Challenge Project (2006-09)
  • Enterprise Engineering:
    • EPSRC Impact Acceleration Fund project on the visualisation of the impact of early design decisions on engineering supply chains (2018-19)
    • Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor in Engineering Supply Chain innovation (2015-18)
  • Design computation (Youtube video):
    • Designing with Vision, a Leverhulme Trust research project (2009-11)
    • DSSG: Design Synthesis and Shape Generation, an AHRC/EPSRC Designing for the 21st Century project (2007-08)
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • 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

My teaching is in the area of engineering and product design.  I teach on modules to undergraduate, Masters and research students and supervise final year projects for Product Design and mechanical engineering students in subject areas related to my research.

Research groups and institutes

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

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>