Studying at Bath had a life-long impact on National Composite Centre CEO Richard Oldfield. Not only has he gone on to lead a not-for-profit organisation that bridges the gap between universities and industries, but he still lives in the city as well. We caught up with him about student nights, his Bath sporting prowess and his varied career.
Why did you choose to study at Bath?
I was looking at somewhere where I could combine my interest in engineering alongside being able to play high level sport.
I loved the city and was also sponsored by Airbus, so ideally wanted to be in the West Country. Bath ticked all the boxes!
Did you have a particular career in mind when you chose your course?
As I was sponsored by Airbus, I spent a year working with them before coming to Bath. I then worked with them every summer and joined them after I completed my degree in aeronautical systems design and manufacture. I ended up spending 16 years working for Airbus at locations all over the world.
Can you tell us about your experience of studying here? Any favourite memories, or places to go on campus and in the city?
I loved every minute – I really enjoyed the practical nature of the course and being able to play sport every day. I made friends for life and still live in Bath today.
There are too many to highlights to mention but living in Brendan Court, on Walcot Street and in Widcombe with friends I still have today is a definite highlight.
I also enjoyed spending nights at Venue, Swamp, Poo Na Na’s (now Labyrinth!) and Monday nights at Cadillacs after football training.
I have a lot of fond memories of sport at Bath too. I was captain of the University football 1st team for 3 years, played for England University's for 4 years, played cricket for the 1st team and was University of Bath Sports Team ‘Player of the Year’ and awarded a Full Blue. I’d also be remiss if I talked about my time at Bath and didn’t mention the hours spent training with Ivor Powell MBE, the legendary football coach.
Describe your career journey since graduating.
I have been very fortunate to have a varied and exciting career. I spent 11 years with Airbus after graduating, most of which I was part of the team that developed the A380 super jumbo. My final 3 years with Airbus were spent living in Toulouse, France.
I then joined GKN Aerospace and spent 10 years helping grow their Aerospace business. As part of that I spent two years in California and worked in London.
What is a typical day like in your current role?
For the last five years I have been CEO of the National Composites Centre (NCC), based in the Bath and Bristol Science Park. As CEO, I get involved in everything and every day is different and can be quite unexpected – I still get my fix of engineering every now and again.
NCC is one of the UK’s Catapult Centres that were set up just over 10 years ago to bridge the gap between universities and industry. Our job is to help companies to bring technologies to market by demonstrating them at industrial scale.
We do this both to help new start-ups that have a good research idea, small and medium-sized enterprises who need help to grow and large companies who want to capitalise on new technologies. In other words, every day we are solving innovation problems for companies. We also provide skills and supply chain support.
NCC is a not-for-profit organisation that is a subsidiary of the University of Bristol and is next door to University of Bath Institute of Advanced Propulsion (IAAPS) who we work closely with, and we have other projects involving Bath, such as the Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies (iCAST).
How did your studies help you to develop?
Mechanical engineering provides a brilliant set of skills that are useful in so many careers. The mix of creative and analytical skills I gained alongside my development at Airbus set me up for my career.
Sport also provided me with key leadership experience, team working skills and resilience. My year in industry before my degree and my summer placements were invaluable in putting my degree into context and enabled me to progress rapidly once I started working.
What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying your course at Bath?
You have chosen well, as it will open many doors! I would advise anyone to get as much industrial experience as possible, as it will not only help your studies, but will prove as an invaluable head start to when you go into industry work.
What motivated you to donate to Bath, and what would you say to others thinking of doing the same?
It is time to give something back. Bath played a critical role in my life, and I owe the University a lot and want others to benefit in the future.