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Science studies particular events to find general laws. Engineering design makes use of the laws to solve particular practical problems. In this it is more closely related to art or craft.—Ove Arup

Where do ideas come from?

As a design and engineering firm, it’s easy to think of Arup as being all about physical objects— roads, buildings, dams, railways and the like. But at its heart, Arup is a people business. It is the technical knowledge, skills and experience of people that set Arup apart. As a knowledgebased organisation, without the best technical minds we could not continue to create projects that push the limits in design, advice, planning and construction. Arup University exists for the benefit of all our people, fostering their creative development and the knowledge and skills required to make our work and projects among the best in the world.

Arup’s unique corporate structure— the business is held in trust for the benefit of employees—has promoted a culture of sharing and cooperation, and we see that in the way that our staff want to share their knowledge, expertise and experience with their colleagues. Arup University is a place where we question the norm, test boundaries and discover what is possible. The following pages set out some of the key activities of the university in our region and explain how our approach to learning, knowledge sharing and research helps our people reach their potential.

Arup University exists for the benefit of all our people

You can find more information about most of the stories in this publication, including more images, and videos at the Arup website for experiments and off-project ideas,


Arup University Enhancing and Sharing Knowledge at Arup

A quarter of a century ago, any Arup employee with a technical problem could consult our internal phone directory and start ringing company experts around the world. It was said that within three phone calls, they’d find someone who could help them with their problem. The quick result was a testament to the vast reservoir of expert knowledge possessed by our employees. Now of course we use more modern technology than a printed telephone directory, but managing, enhancing and sharing that knowledge remains central to what we do. Like so many businesses these days, Arup is all about knowledge— everything we provide for our clients revolves around insights, creativity and solutions. Supporting the Arup business with the transfer of existing knowledge and the generation of new knowledge is one of the functions of Arup University. Arup University is like a corporate Research & Development function, but it has components that wouldn’t normally fit within traditional R&D. Many of these mirror the activities found within a traditional university—hence the name.


In terms of traditional research, we have a particular focus on the next five years. We pick an opportunity or issue that’s affecting us or our clients and work on a solution, doing the research within the firm or striking up partnerships with other outside companies or universities. A recent project that our structural engineers have been working on is the application of three-dimensional printing in construction. Printing with new materials is on the horizon, so they are looking at how printed metal nodes will perform and what that means for the way buildings are procured and designed. Arup University also has a learning and development component, with a particular focus on technical disciplines. This comprises of over 40 different skills networks— essentially global communities of various disciplines that are practiced within Arup. Each of those skills networks has a leader and a manager who determine what sort of skill development is needed for their particular discipline to ensure that everyone is kept up to date with the latest from their industry.

As a firm that works on a project basis we develop a lot of knowledge that is specific to each project, and that can be difficult to share—the insights from one project might not always be directly applicable to the next project but are still worth retaining. It’s a challenge we are constantly working on, with various programs and research to continually improve the way we do this. Next, the university has a foresight function. Where our research & development focusses on projects that will be applicable to our work and our clients’ needs in the coming years. The foresight group produces thought pieces on relevant issues 40 years into the future. Recently we published ‘The Future of Highways’ and ‘The Future of Libraries’. Finally, we have the library. We still have a lot of hard copy books— 25,000 in this region alone, and this is important because it gives Arup University a physical presence. We have recently redesigned our Sydney offices to move towards activitybased working, and Arup University has been placed at the centre of the collaboration space—it is at the heart of what we do. The university is here to be used and accessed by everyone within the firm. Just about everyone belongs to a skills community, so it’s a benefit to all staff not just a handful.


Knowledge is at the heart of As a project-based organisation, everything we do. We generate our success comes from delivering knowledge from projects, from technically innovative projects using research and from experience. It is the specialist knowledge of our staff. our aim to capture as much of this Utilising pre-existing knowledge valuable knowledge as possible and enables us to work more efficiently, develop ways of reusing it to improve reducing the need to re-invent the efficiency and productivity. wheel each time and boosting our competitive advantage. In order to We consider knowledge to achieve this, we promote and enhance be different from information. a culture of sharing by encouraging Information is the raw data that we collaboration and reducing silos. gather and use when we undertake a project, while knowledge is Our approach to knowledge sharing fundamentally the comprehension is very inclusive. While we obviously that stems from experience. have a very strong technical focus, we don’t lose sight of the fact that Most of our staff build on the learning everybody in the firm has knowledge they did at university with experience to share that’s of value. that they gain through projects. It’s applying that learning in a practical Arup University doesn’t mandate how way so they build up knowledge our people should share knowledge through experience. or set up rigid systems. Our role is to facilitate a culture of sharing and help our staff find the most effective way to pass on their knowledge to others.

Arup’s biggest asset is the knowl which our people bring to a proje



As much as we share current knowledge ‘Now’ research responds to current we also capture new knowledge. business needs and constitutes the majority of our research; ‘New’ Arup’s approach to research is research pushes the boundaries of not to have a separate research a discipline and has a timescale of and development department that three to five years into the future; works on new products and services. and ‘Next’ research takes us to new Instead, our staff define what research business areas 20 or 30 years hence. should be undertaken, often with our clients, and Arup University helps Prioritised areas for investigation identify external research partners are outlined in our Strategic that can support the research. Research Agenda. We held a large number of workshops with staff, We partner with a wide range business and skills leaders to input of other organisations on research into the research agenda. projects. This approach helps us Collectively we came up with develop strong relationships, share 400 different topics of interest, the new knowledge and explore which fall into four main themes: different opportunities. • New Technologies & Materials Our research is split into a for the Built Environment longitudinal view of the Now, the New and the Next. • Urban Wellbeing • Lifecycle Design for Resilience • How We Work: Space, Tools, Clients

Our research is split into the Now, the New and the Next ledge ect


Along with the research into technical issues that will help us deliver better results for our clients in the next few years, Arup University undertakes research into longer-term trends. We call it Foresight which describes a set of approaches and skills that help us and our clients explore and shape the future. This includes understanding key drivers of change, possible projections into the future, and the implications of change on specific businesses, projects or contexts. In our foresight research we partner with large and small organisations to uncover unique insights and strategies for the future of the built environment.


Skills and technical development

Arup’s skill sets are wide ranging, with experts in anything from concrete design to behaviour change. The breadth of these skills reflect the complex requirements of our work and to ensure they are fostered we have developed communities of practice we call Skills Networks. Our Skills Networks nurture the firm’s expertise. They promote collaboration and knowledge sharing between colleagues who may be on opposite sides of the world, enabling us to bring global knowledge to local projects. We have over 40 Skills Networks. Each network is led by a Skills Leader, who is the recognised leader of their profession within the firm. The Skills Leaders identify which activities and research to undertake for their networks and develop plans to achieve it. They are integral to Arup University and the success of the business.

“Through the fantastic co-ordination and follow up from Arup University, we were able to deliver a very successful and rewarding Structural Fire Engineering course across the region. The course was run in all the Australasian offices facilitated by one of our technical specialists from the UK and attended by fire engineers Skills Leaders determine what sort and structural engineers. It was great of technical learning is required and to witness such a well structured experts from within the firm develop, course that was very engaging with structure and deliver courses in a the feedback being excellent. It was variety of ways from face-to-face great to see our very strong technical learning through to e-learning via skills in this field at work.” online portals. When Arup decides to develop Fire Engineering Skills Leader learning around developing areas of expertise we partner with some of the world’s top universities and educational institutions to deliver masters-level courses that staff from around the world come together to undertake over twelve month periods. The online Skills Networks hum with debate and provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. When a member posts a question in an online forum, it is sent out to other members and they receive replies and help from experts all around the world.

Courses have ranged from Smart Cities to Business Economics to Energy Futures and we generally run four topics per year. The masterslevel courses are very popular and an important investment in our staff.

Our online skills networks hum with debate 0.10

We are always developing our skills and never stop learning

Arup University Library

For Arup to continue to operate as it does, our designers need access to the right information at the right time. Our Library forms a valuable part of how we find, share and disseminate information and knowledge. But the way the Arup University library does this has changed. It’s no longer just repositories of information which the staff can draw on as they need. The amount of information in the world is growing rapidly and it’s increasingly important that we can navigate all of that information.


Our librarians sit down with people and help them find the technical paper they’re after or do the research about a particular industry or project. They are not found behind a library desk, they are sitting with project teams. Each Arup office has a dedicated library space that is well used by our staff. Our librarians are key nodes in the Arup network helping to connect those seeking answers with those with the know-how. The spaces are designed for collaboration and creativity and often used for exhibitions of projects and research.

“The approach the team has taken to ensure that the valuable reference, research and learning services they provide, are visible, accessible and central to operations, is exemplary in corporate library terms. We’d like to see more corporate and government libraries operating in a similar way. The Arup library models the direction contemporary libraries are heading—proactive facilitators, curators and guides, delivering decision ready information and a solution to the information overload.” Kirrin Sampson Training & Strategic Programs Manager, Australian Library and Information Association

Enquiries Phone +61 3 9668 5500 Arup has offices through the Australasian region. Melbourne Sydney Singapore Brisbane Perth Adelaide Canberra Cairns Townsville Jakarta Auckland Christchurch

Where do ideas come from?  

As a design and engineering firm, it’s easy to think of Arup as being all about physical objects— roads, buildings, dams, railways and the l...

Where do ideas come from?  

As a design and engineering firm, it’s easy to think of Arup as being all about physical objects— roads, buildings, dams, railways and the l...