New Hereford technology college appoints timber tech director

NMITE Prof Robert Hairstans CATT Director

The New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE), a unique engineering college based in Hereford, which plans to pioneer a new ‘Learning without Lectures’ technique, has appointed Professor Robert Hairstans as Founding Director of its Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT). 

His role will be to lead the development and delivery of the CATT, to help establish it as the leading national location in timber education and to work with the broader NMITE academic team to create a sustainable educational portfolio.  

Robert joins on a two-year secondment from the number one modern university in Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University (ENU), where he is head of the Centre for Offsite Construction + Innovative Structures (COCIS) within the University’s Institute for Sustainable Construction.  

Professor Beverley Gibbs, Chief Academic Officer, NMITE said “We are thrilled at Professor Hairstans’ arrival and know he has the expertise, experience and passion to develop and deliver the CATT’s vision.” 

Professor Hairstans’ specialist expertise is in the fields of timber engineering and technology with a focus on adding value to the timber supply chain with an emphasis on engineered timber products and offsite (modular) construction. 

He said: “I am delighted to be the Founding Director of the CATT. Working with industry I want to accelerate the utilisation of timber, digitisation and factory-based approaches by ensuring an inclusive educational model which generates a value return for the sector via the next generation of built environment professionals.” 

NMITE artist’s impressionCentral to this vision is a new learning and teaching building in Hereford’s enterprise zone – Skylon Park. Planning permission for the NMITE building has been submitted with the expectation of starting on site in April 2021 and structural completion by March 2022. When complete, this facility will complement the research and timber testing infrastructure of ENU and, by extension, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre which is hosted by ENU.   

The appointment brings together two organisations and they have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding. A key focus of the UK wide collaborative framework is the idea of CATT as a ‘living lab’, working with industry to develop projects that prototype solutions with students gaining knowledge from real-life conditions.  

NMITE will continue to focus on education and skills and will benefit from ENU’s research and technology transfer. Sited on the England/Wales border, NMITE believes by working with ENU it will be able to look at a UK-wide framework, without competing, for the benefit of all. NMITE explains that it is looking forward to meeting the needs of its industry partners and furthering its vision to develop and provide a degree apprenticeship in Timber Engineering underpinned by a Timber Technology, Engineering and Design competency framework that supports flexible learning and pathway progression.