The Entrepreneurial Engineer: An Investigation into the Relationship between Humanitarian Engineering and Entrepreneurship

  • Simon Hill

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    ‘Humanitarian Engineering’ (engineering to support society) is an initiative that has seen considerable growth in recent years within Australasia and North America and more recently within the UK. It is however still in a nascent phase, and is without a clear global definition.

    Entrepreneurship on the other hand is well established, understood and has been researched globally for several decades, although still presents conflicting views of what it means to be entrepreneurial.

    Entrepreneurship does not, on the surface, appear to share obvious connections with humanitarian engineering, however, when considering the researched characteristics of entrepreneurial individuals such as creativity, perseverance and risk taking and characteristics shown by humanitarian engineers, similarities can be seen. The purpose of this research is to develop a clear definition for the term ‘Humanitarian Engineering’ and to investigate rigorously the relationship between entrepreneurial characteristics and the characteristics of those studying humanitarian engineering; both qualitative and quantitative data will be used

    Qualitative data are gathered from individuals engaged in humanitarian engineering and provides insight into the definition of humanitarian engineering in a UK context.

    The primary quantitative research method is an updated version of Gasse and Tremblay’s (2006) Entrepreneurial Characteristic Inventory that measures the 11recognised entrepreneurial characteristics. This allowed the author to compare and contrast these characteristics as demonstrated by students studying general engineering, humanitarian engineering and enterprise.

    The quantitative results show that seven of the 11 entrepreneurial characteristics measured are significantly higher in humanitarian engineering students compared with the general engineering students. Nine of the eleven characteristics measured are significantly higher in enterprise students compared with the humanitarian engineering students.

    Entrepreneurial characteristics are important within engineering, due to the economic impact and association with competencies listed within UK-SPEC to meet Chartered Engineer status but engineers are often the least engaged with entrepreneurial support packages in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

    This research shows that engagement in humanitarian engineering activities by graduates can act as an indicator for employers of engineers, during the recruitment process, to the existence of these desired entrepreneurial competencies.

    Further impact of this research is the potential targeting of students within HEIs for enterprise support mechanisms to increase venture start-ups and enhance the relationship between engineering faculties and the enterprise agenda.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorLizzie Miles (Supervisor), Matthew Harrison (Supervisor), Mark Hooper (Supervisor) & Duncan Lawson (Supervisor)

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