Coventry design graduate excels in ‘Dragons’ Den’-style car awards

Alumni news

Friday 28 October 2011

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A recent graduate of Transport and Product Design from Coventry University has made it through to the final six of the prestigious Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award, a ‘Dragon’s Den’-style competition for talented young automotive designers.

Callum Nash, 24, from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, put forward his radical idea for a new take on personal transportation – a crash-safe, zero-emission motorcycle – in response to a brief set by Autocar magazine’s editor-in-chief, Steve Cropley, and was selected from amongst hundreds of entrants.

Along with 11 other candidates, Callum was then invited to a rigorous assessment day during which he presented his idea to a panel of senior industry executives, was put in the hotseat for an interview and was subject to professional profiling and psychometric tests.

The organisers were impressed enough to shortlist Callum for the final, high-pressure judging day at Autocar magazine’s Teddington headquarters on Tuesday 1st November, where six of the best candidates will once again face a judging panel of industry luminaries – including Cropley – and present their ideas in a Dragons’ Den-style atmosphere.

Alongside Cropley on the judging panel will be Dick Glover, McLaren Automotive research director, Paul Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), and a host of senior executives from Toyota, Peugeot and Mercedes-Benz – each of whom will cast a critical eye over the contestants’ concepts.

The three best contestants will then be invited to the SMMT’s annual dinner at the London Hilton, Park Lane, where the winner will be announced in front of over 800 industry figures. The top prize is £7,500 and a top-flight car industry work placement.

Callum’s innovative proposal for a new kind of personal transportation, The Opus, has proved a hit with the organisers so far in the competition. The Opus is a zero-emission motorcycle with a unique active safety system to protect the rider in the event of an accident.

Its 7kW electric motor can power the The Opus beyond motorway speeds, and the onboard battery pack will last for over 130 miles. Alternatively, the rider can use pedal power alone to drive the bike and improve their fitness in the process.

Callum, who graduated from Coventry University in 2010 with first-class honours in Transport and Product Design, said:
“It’s a terrific honour to have been shortlisted for this award. The Opus is a vessel for many ideas I have about the way we should design and manufacture vehicles over the next 20 years.
“It’s an electric vehicle, but it’s no toy. It is about the experience of driving, of moving not just your body, but your soul too. It retrospectively looks back to the passion we all share for motoring, but also looks forward to the future in this new renaissance, where we are all infinitely interconnected by a ubiquitous internet and yet we have widespread uncertainty about how we will even power our vehicles in the next 20 years.”

Kevin Gaskell, chairman of the Courland Automotive Practice and head of the competition’s assessment panel, said:
“The high calibre of the students we interviewed at the assessment days was very impressive. It was great to see such enthusiastic raw talent and I have no doubt that they all have great careers ahead of them.”

The Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award, launched in 2010 to high industry acclaim, offers entrants a unique chance to launch a coveted industry career and is run in conjunction with Courland Automotive Practice and the SMMT. The aim of the award is to identify and inspire the automotive industry leaders of tomorrow and assist them with their careers.

Coventry University has a successful history in the awards, with 20-year-old Transport Design masters student Mohsin Basharmal scooping top honours in 2009 and Automotive Design student Will Brown claiming runner-up accolade in 2010.

The University’s School of Art and Design has a long established international reputation for excellence in transport and product design, frequently producing graduates who go onto to successful careers in associated industries.

When asked about his experience at Coventry University, Callum said:
“There is no doubt that the Coventry School of Art and Design is one of the best in the world. On my course there was a real sense of competition and excitement, with all the students trying to out-do each other. The lecturers were a positive influence on me, and introduced me to the philosophy of design. It was a challenging course, but I enjoyed it. The Opus was initially thought up in my final year project, and it’s been a great experience to revisit it for this competition.”

Images of Callum © Adam Gerrard 2011
For further information and images, please contact Alex Roache, External Press & Media Relations Officer, Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7679 5050 or email Alternatively, please contact Karen Parry, Autocar PR, on 07903 955696 or email