Engineering and Development

19 March 2020

Innogen researchers, Peter Robbins and David Wield have edited a Special Issue of the Journal of International Development entitled ‘The global and the local in engineering and international development’

This special issue provides a series of freely accessible articles that explore the nature of engineering in development. All the articles suggest that development engineering is most successful when embedded locally and informed by global standards flexed or adapted to local conditions.

The first article in the series by Peter Robbins and colleagues, explores the local contexts and global standards in engineering and development in a sustainable energy programme funded by the UK Engineering Research Council and the Department for International Development. This programme is a good illustration of the concept of ‘liquid engineering’ (engineering social practices characterised by flow, mixing and hybridity) because it has facilitated interdisciplinary approaches, networks and communities of practice that have produced inclusive innovation and capacity building of research teams both in Africa and the UK.

This has not been the case in the article by Joseph Hanlon that examines the tensions arising between global big engineering projects advocating one approach and the Bangladeshi Water Development Board supporting local approaches to manage floods in Bangladesh.

Another two papers explore the tensions between global and local in engineering and design education standards. They consider ways in which African universities can meet global education standards by embracing culturally adapted problem‐based learning (PBL) approaches in their curricula.

The special issue also contains a series of Policy Arena papers focussing on ways to address the challenges faced by those who implement policy in this area.

“This series of articles support the application of a liquid engineering approach, which emphasises understanding and response to local context in order to achieve successful development engineering interventions,” said Peter Robbins, Head of Discipline at the School of Social Sciences & Global Studies, The Open University, and Innogen co-director.


Robbins, P.; Wield, D. and Wilson, G. eds. (2020). Journal of International Development 32 (1). Special issue and policy arena: The global and the local in engineering and international development. Wiley.