Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Professor Sharon Baurley Appointed Chair of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group

The Royal College of Art is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Sharon Baurley as Professor of Design and Materials and Chair of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group. 

The Group is the first explicit ‘STEAM’ research initiative at an art and design university, and was announced in 2017 following an award of £3 million from the Burberry Foundation. The Group will apply radical thinking to invent new sustainable materials, transform consumer experience and advance manufacturing to benefit the whole industry and wider community. 

Informed by her industry-focused experience, ranging from smart materials to the impact of new technologies on the future of manufacturing, Professor Baurley will define the research agenda of the Group. She will also lead the commercial and practical application of the outcomes through collaboration with industry partners.

Since 2016 Professor Baurley has been a Research Professor at the RCA, where she also completed her PhD in Textile Design. Her work consulting with industry includes Courtaulds Textiles, Gianni Versace, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Design Intelligence and Mantero.

Professor Baurley said: 'It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to build the Burberry Material Futures Research Group into an internationally leading centre in research and innovation in design and materials that contributes to building a future of sustainable design and production. I look forward to bringing my professorial leadership skills, which can synthesise across Design and STEM to advance the RCA’s STEAM agenda by developing researchers and students to occupy this unique cognitive space.'

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Naren Barfield said: “With a track record in research that covers the full range across design, materials, engineering electronics and computer science, Professor Baurley is the ideal person to provide intellectual and academic leadership to the Burberry Material Futures Research Group.

'I am delighted to welcome Sharon to lead this new and exciting initiative, as the RCA delivers its vision to undertake research and develop new programmes at the interface of design, science, technology and engineering. Professor Baurley’s deep understanding of the UK and global research landscape, and exemplary record, will be invaluable in leading a team of researchers and doctoral students to address the challenges of material futures in the twenty-first century, and will provide inspiration to new researchers, students and our research partners.'

Leanne Wood, Burberry’s Chief People, Strategy & Corporate Affairs Officer, and trustee of the Burberry Foundation, said: 'We are delighted that Professor Sharon Baurley has been appointed Chair of the Burberry Material Futures Research Group. The Group was created to find ways to build a more sustainable future, and we are excited to see the advances in material science that will be achieved under her leadership.'

The Burberry Material Futures Research Group will act as a 'virtual' centre until it officially opens its doors in 2020 at the new RCA campus and will pave the way for the establishment of the future RCA Materials Science Research Centre. 


RCA alumna Professor Baurley completed her PhD in Textile Design, during which she developed three-dimensional textile materials for clothing through transferring processes from engineering to design. She carried out post-doctoral research at Musashino Art University, Tokyo, and John Moores University, Liverpool and has been Research Professor at the RCA since 2016.

Professor Baurley’s research interests are interdisciplinary and industry focused, ranging from smart materials to human-centred design, co-design and the impact of new technologies on the future of manufacturing. She has been Principal Investigator for major funded research investigations, including the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC)-funded ‘Future Makespaces in Re-Distributed Manufacturing’, and ‘Openfood’, which prototyped open innovation models for ICT-enabled manufacturing in food and packaging.

As part of The Emotional Wardrobe, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded fellowship and the EPSRC/AHRC ‘Designing for the 21st Century’ research cluster, Professor Baurley worked with computer scientists to explore the interplay between fashion, identity, mobile communications and smart materials. 

She also led the project Digital Sensoria, which explored how methods from design, human-computer interaction, psychology and neuroscience can be combined to gain insight into people’s sensory perceptions of materials to develop interactive digital tools for co-design. This work gave rise to her current interest in integrating methods from design with methods from psychology and phenomenology, in order to enhance understanding of human culture and the human condition, leading to advanced human-centred design methods to design user-innovation environments.

Professor Baurley was Head of Industrial Design at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste / Zürich University of the Arts (ZHdK), Head of Design Products at the RCA and Head of Design in the School of Engineering & Design at Brunel University, and was Reader at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (UAL). Her industry consultations include Courtaulds Textiles, Gianni Versace, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Design Intelligence and Mantero. She has also collaborated on research with Vodafone, HP Labs and Horizon, a Digital Economy Research Hub funded by the RCUK Digital Economy programme.

In 2017 the Burberry Foundation awarded £3 million to the College to establish the Burberry Material Futures Research Group – the first explicit ‘STEAM’ research initiative at a traditional art and design university, applying radical thinking to invent more sustainable materials, transform consumer experience and advance manufacturing for the benefit of industry and the wider community.