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Last modified: 25 Mar 2016 11:39

Course Overview

Students will examine the societal grand challenges of water, food, medicine and energy (electricity and heat) to thread together the themes of environment, sustainability and ethics.

The course also aims to provide graduates with a versatile framework for evaluating and developing business models which should prove invaluable for both potential entrepreneurs and future senior executives.


Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 5
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus Old Aberdeen Sustained Study No
  • Mr John Cavanagh

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Engineering (EG) (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

Course Aims

Students will examine the societal grand challenges of water, food, medicine and energy (electricity and heat) to thread together the themes of environment, sustainability and ethics.  They will explore potential solutions and will be challenged to consider the difficulties of balancing the beneficial effects of the solution with the negative effects on people and/or the environment.  For example, diverting farmland or crops for bio-fuels production to the detriment of the food supply or implementing a major hydro-power project which could damage local farming or fishing. The course will also to provide students with a versatile framework for evaluating and developing innovative and sustainable business models, invaluable for potential entrepreneurs and future executives alike.

Main Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students should

A:  have knowledge and understanding of:
• Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility
• Anthropogenic impacts on the environment
• Environmental Sustainability
• Entrepreneurship and innovative business models

B:  have gained intellectual skills so that they are able to:
• Understand the challenges facing the engineer in society
• Evaluate new and existing business models

C: have gained practical skills so that they are able to:
• Develop environmentally sustainable solutions to engineering challenges
• Develop innovative business models which are ethically based and environmentally sustainable
• Work more effectively within teams

D: have gained or improved transferable skills so they are able to:
• Generate creative solutions to problems
• Work more effectively within teams
• Make decisions involving complex and competing ethical issues
• Prepare business proposals  and deliver presentations with impact

Course Content

• Introduction to ethics, sustainability and corporate social responsibility

• Anthropogenic impact on the environment
o Climate change
o Pollution
o Waste
o Overpopulation
o Environmental degradation
o Resource depletion

• The Grand Challenges
o Water
o Food
o Medicine
o Energy (electricity and heat)

• Conflicting effects (examples might include)
o Fuel versus food
o Hydro-power versus damage to farmland and fishing
o Convenience versus sustainability
o Rapid urbanisation versus sustainable development

• Entrepreneurship
o Sketching the Business Model
o Business Model Canvas
o Common Business models (patterns)
o Assessing your business model
o Crossing the chasm
o Validating your business model
o The pitch

Further Information & Notes

This course is available only to students in programme year 5 of an MEng degree programme or with the permission of the Head of the School of Engineering.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt

Assessment will be via two pieces of written coursework and a presentation (100%).

All elements will involve students working in small teams and grades will be subject to peer review.

Assignments will be as follows
(a) Prepare a paper on a relevant topic (40%)
(b) Prepare a proposal for an innovative new business idea which is ethically based and environmentally sustainable (40%)
(c) Present the new business proposal (20%)


Resubmission of failing assignments which will undertaken by individuals working on their own (rather than in teams)

Formative Assessment

Classroom discussions.


Feedback will be provided to students in written and/or verbal format as follows
• In response to questions and issues raised by students during lectures and group activities
• Following submission of summative and formative coursework
Any student or group of students may request feedback on any course related matter or assignment by arrangement with the course co-ordinator and/or individual contributors as appropriate.

Course Learning Outcomes


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