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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Alumnis Chris McDonald in the plant

Chemical Engineering graduate Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Materials Processing Institute, has recently been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the profession.

Chris grew up in Blackhall, County Durham, where both his grandfathers were miners. At school, he discovered an aptitude for science and engineering and was supported by British Steel to study Chemical Engineering with us graduating in 2000. He has a background in industrial research and manufacturing, he began his career as a researcher with Corus, later rising to Strategy Manager with Tata Steel. As CEO, he led the divestment of the Materials Processing Institute in Redcar in 2014, re-establishing it as a not-for-profit organisation, with a commitment to social responsibility, saving the jobs of 50 people and growing the organisation. He also provides consultancy support to Governments, companies and universities on steel, innovation strategy, and industrial strategy more generally.

The Fellowship represents UK’s best engineering researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, business and industry leaders, and includes one of Chris’s predecessors at the Institute, Dr Frank Fitzgerald, who was elected a Fellow in 1977.

As UK's national innovation centre for steel and metals, the Materials Processing Institute Chris leads specialises in commercialising technology in advanced materials, low carbon energy, the circular economy, and digital technologies. It is also the forefront of research into decarbonisation and related digital technologies.  

In his Fellowship role, he will continue to advocate the need to build upon the UK’s economic strengths and its reputation for innovation to reverse the decline in manufacturing and industry. Chris commented: “Being elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering is a tremendous personal honour and it also reflects the work of national significance that is being led by the Institute - from hydrogen innovation in green steelmaking and developing the world’s first zero emission cement, to improving waste heat recovery in industrial processes.

He is especially interested in innovation leadership and the steel industry and has experience working internationally in the global steel industry.

 “I have long advocated the need to develop a much stronger UK manufacturing and industrial base, to build a strong and resilient UK economy that provides good jobs and helps us to pay our way as a nation. As a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, I will continue to strongly champion this cause;” he added.

He is also the Editor of international publication Millennium Steel, and Chair of the Redhills Charity, Durham Miners Hall, leading the board of trustees, refurbishing and repurposing the historic Pitman's Parliament, as a centre for education, aspiration and community activity, celebrating the unique culture and heritage of County Durham.

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