Supercars to bin lorries: my personal journey on upskilling for a decarbonising world

Posted in: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Opinion, Teaching

electric car being refueled on panoramic blue banner background with energy iconsEric Griess, Consultant in sustainable technologies, writes about launching an electric vehicle company, the 'green movement' and demand for jobs in sustainability, and how our MSc Decarbonisation will help prepare graduates for this. Eric has supported the Faculty through our industry-linked projects on our Automotive master's suite, and guest lectures.

Five years ago, I was sitting in an engine test cell somewhere in Sweden listening to a state-of-the-art combustion engine roar to life for the first time. This engine was destined to be the beating heart of a Koenigsegg – a company unknown to many but revered by car enthusiasts as an eccentric group building the most sought-after cars in the world. With some of the most innovative tricks up its sleeve to improve efficiency and fuel flexibility, this engine aimed to be the holy grail that proved a combustion-powered future was possible.

Having spent most of my life with a dream of developing an advanced, fuel-efficient engine that would help the global energy transition, I can easily say it was one of the proudest moments of my career.

Around the same time, Tesla was taking the world by storm and electric cars were gaining momentum at a staggering pace. From a logical perspective, it was great that more sustainable solutions were reaching the market – the more the merrier. But for some reason, I ridiculed them. They weren’t loud enough. They couldn’t be nearly as exciting.

No matter how much I ridiculed them, funding for combustion engine development was drying up and investors’ attention shifted towards new and exciting electric vehicle technologies. This cloud lingered over our new creation, and despite the promises of this new combustion-powered wonder, my future felt more uncertain than ever.

Each time I argued against electric vehicles, it dawned on me more and more – I was standing on the wrong side of history. On that side, you can feel it. There are echo chambers of small groups of people reinforcing a desperate need to be correct. You reach further into the depths of research papers to prove that your opinion is remotely true or relevant. There is very little innovation. Funding dries up and jobs become scarce.

Like the people moving to new technologies, I also believed in a sustainable future but had different opinions on how we should get there. Quite vain when you think about it. I came to realise my reluctance to adapt stemmed from a fear of being irrelevant in a fast-paced world and decided it was time to adapt to a world that needed to decarbonise faster.

I went back to basics to learn how to design electric vehicles. The deeper I went, the more I realised that the fundamentals are the same. By focusing on understanding the core principles of engineering instead of tying myself to a single solution, I quickly found a new world of opportunities. A few months later, I helped design and launch an electric vehicle company and haven’t looked back since.

In hindsight, I think I was an early part of the 'green movement' wave – a movement that is seeing a 15% growth in sustainability-related jobs year-on-year [1]. If things continue at this rate:

  • sustainability-related jobs will double every five years
  • there will be 150 times more jobs requiring green skills by the time you retire if you’re joining the workforce now
  • UK job growth average 1% over the last ten years [2], so green jobs are likely to become a much larger proportion of jobs in the future

With an MSc in Decarbonisation, you can learn and quantify the skills necessary to maximise your professional prospects and personal impact - technical skills alone will rarely be enough for the next generation of leaders. To make a real difference, you will need to know how to navigate an abundance of conflicting information, select the most promising concepts that satisfy a wide array of stakeholders, and shift organisations to help build a brighter, cleaner future together.

About Eric

I’m a creative, passionate, and concerned human focused on bringing decarbonisation technologies into the market. From startups developing advanced technology for more efficient combustion engines, to helping pioneer circular business models for commercial electric vehicles, I’m now working across many industries as a consultant for sustainable technologies with Cambridge Consultants. My main job is to help find win-win scenarios that make breakthrough sustainable technologies equitable and profitable for everyone. When I’m not doing that, you’ll find me enjoying hiking and photography somewhere near an ocean.





Posted in: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Opinion, Teaching


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