Prof Desta Mebratu

Extraordinary Professor, University of Stellenbosh, South Africa


Desta Mebratu is an Extraordinary Professor at Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), Stellenbosch University and Fellow of Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS). He also teaches at Addis Abeba Institute of Technology as a Visiting Professor. He is a chemical engineer by background and has a PhD of engineering in Industrial Environmental Economics from Lund University and an MBA in International Business from American University of London. He has more than 30 years of experience working for industries, universities and international organizations. He worked for United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for more than 13 years holding various positions. This includes serving as Head of UNEP Business and Industry Program and Deputy Regional Director for Africa. His main areas of expertise are: resource efficient and cleaner production, sustainable energy systems, sustainable industrial development policies, Green Economy and sustainability science. Professor Mebratu has widely published in peer-reviewed journals and co-edited the ‘Handbook on Sustainable Development Policy and Administration’ and the book on ‘Transformative Infrastructure for development of a Wellbeing Economy in Africa’. Professor Mebratu is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (FAAS) since 2016.

Title: Transformational infrastructure and Engineering in the 21st century

Ensuring the wellbeing of a population that is projected to reach 130 million by 2030 in a resource and carbon constrained world would require a speedy transition to an inclusive, low carbon and resource efficient society. Ethiopia’s ability to make such a transition is highly dependent on the kind and quality of infrastructure it develops in the coming years and decade. Besides the ecological constraints, emerging knowledge and technology systems related to the fourth industrial revolution pose multiple challenges while at the same time provide unique opportunities of leapfrogging. Ethiopia, as most developing countries in Africa, has a unique opportunity of leapfrogging to an inclusive, low carbon and resource efficient economy provided that it develops a transformational infrastructure that looks forward into the twenty first century. This would, however, require active involvement and leadership of engineers in containing the challenges and maximizing the opportunities from emerging knowledge and technology systems.

One of the key transitions in which engineers could play a vital role is in moving away from supply-driven conventional infrastructural development to context-relevant and demand driven infrastructure settings. This would require engineers to think and operate from transdisciplinary perspective with a focus on socio-technological innovation and technology regimes. Deploying life cycle management tools and techniques in planning and development of infrastructure development would assist in containing the adverse impact and maximizing the opportunities besides ensuring their sustainability. This key note presentation argues that Ethiopia’s ability to develop transformational infrastructure that could facilitate the transition to an inclusive low carbon and resource efficient economy is dependent on its capacity to effectively manage the tensions between the lock-in and leapfrogging effect of infrastructural development. It also highlights the key role that engineers could play in this transition and in developing sustainable infrastructure in the area of energy, industry and urban infrastructure.


Dr Lara Allen

CEO: Centre for Global Equality (CGE)
Director of Implementation and Impact: Cambridge Global Challenges Strategic Research Initiative and Affiliated Lecturer: Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge


Dr Lara Allen is CEO of the Centre for Global Equality, a civil society organisation based in Cambridge, UK, that evolves innovative solutions to global challenges. She is also an Affiliated Lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge, and Directs the Cambridge Inclusive Innovation Hub, hosted by the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. She has ten years of experience as an international development practitioner working as a consultant, employee and volunteer with grassroots Community Based Organisations and national and international NGOs in South Africa, Kenya, Ireland and the UK. Prior to this she was an academic with nine years of post-PhD experience at the University of Cambridge and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. By the time she pivoted her career in 2009 she had become an Associate Professor, had supervised 5 PhD and 12 research Masters Dissertations, and had published 10 single- and 3 dual-authored peer reviewed journal articles, 4 book chapters and over 20 other publications. Her present research interests include the theory and practice of inclusive innovation, methodologies of co-creation, and the role of the fine and performing arts in community development.

Title: Research and Inclusive Innovation in Cambridge and Bahir Dar – why, what and how.

Despite growing and commendable efforts to change the situation, across the globe most cutting edge science and frontier technology continues to be focused on making the world’s wealthy people more wealthy and more comfortable. This inequitable distribution of intellectual resources constitute a deep injustice. It is also contributing to the fact that we are exceeding several of the nine planetary boundaries that Rockström et al. identified as defining the environmentally safe operating space for humanity, and progress towards enhancing the wellbeing and economic development of the poorer half of the world’s population is slower than it could be. In other words, the potential contribution that global academia could be making towards enabling humanity to live within the doughnut-shaped space that Kate Raworth describes as the safe and just area for humanity is not being achieved.

To contribute to addressing this situation the Centre for Global Equality (CGE) has evolved an approach termed Inclusive Innovation, which is inclusive both in purpose and in approach. The aim is to mobilise frontier science and technology to enhance the wellbeing and economic development of the world’s rising billions, without harming the environment or the interests of future generations. Core to the approach is the co-creation of potential solutions with the people they are intended to benefit.

Genuine collaboration and effective co-creation is, however, easier said than done. In this presentation Dr Allen will offer an overview of the range of tools, projects and programmes that CGE has evolved to facilitate Inclusive Innovation in collaboration with partners in academia, civil society, government and business. She will discuss the opportunities and challenges inherent in enabling the establishment of inclusive innovation ecosystems in Cambridge and Bahir Dar. And, using case studies of ongoing projects, will analyse the key role that BiT-BDU is playing in evolving effective mechanisms to facilitate collaboration between researchers from the UK and Ethiopia, and co-creation between academic researchers and end-user communities in Ethiopia.


Hirpa G. Lemu, PhD

Professor of Mechanical Design Engineering, Dept. of Mechanical & Structural Engineering and Materials Science, University of Stavanger


Dr. Hirpa Lemu is a Professor of Mechanical Design Engineering at Dept. of Mechanical & Structural Engineering and Materials Science, University of Stavanger (UiS), Norway. He earned his PhD within Computational Intelligence Systems to Integrate CAD/CAM Systems from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2002.  Dr. Lemu’s current research focus is on design optimization of energy converters (gas turbine, wave and wind energy), simulation driven design optimization, modeling and simulation of mechanical systems and material behavior characterization including natural composites and additive manufacturing technologies. He has supervised  over 175 BSc, 40 MSc and 3 PhD candidates. Currently he is supervising 3 PhD candidates. He has also served as a member of PhD evaluation (defense) committee for 15 PhD candidates at different institutions in Norway and abroad. He has published over 150 peer reviewed articles in reputed journals and international conferences. Dr. Lemu is director of the 3D Printing lab that he founded in 2008 and currently this lab is equipped with diverse advanced 3D printing and 3D scanning tools. Dr. Lemu is the initiator and organizer of an International Conference entitled “COTech – Computational Methods in Offshore Technology”, which is organized this year (November 2019) for the second time. He has been initiator and leader of several collaborative projects with many universities in Europe and North America. Dr. Lemu serves as an Editor and Reviewer of several International Journals and Scientific Committee member of several International Conferences.

Title:  Design Optimization of Energy Converters Using High-dimensional and Nature Inspired Approaches

A number of novel strategies that are nature inspired are recently proposed for the shape optimization procedures using metamodel-based decomposition algorithm for High-dimensional, Expensive and Black-box (HEB) design problems. For complex aerodynamic profile optimization process, for instance, a metamodel named High Dimensional Model Representation (HDMR) that utilizes decomposition of design variables in a HEB design problem is suggested. The power of this approach is the ability to combine a Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS) driven parametric geometry description, a two-dimensional flow analysis, and a Genetic Algorithm (GA)-based optimization route. In addition, different simulation tools such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA) as well programming tools such as MATLAB and COMSOL are integrated with the parametric description models. In this keynote presentation, the research work done in our research team on application of the metamodel HDMR to optimize the design optimization of gas turbine blades and micro hydropower turbines is presented.

Keywords: Design optimization, Energy converter, Genetic algorithm, High dimensional model representation, Metamodel-based decomposition, Nature inspired approach

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