The Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award has propelled many young, budding professionals into the automotive industry.
Previous finalists and winners have gone on to work at manufacturers such as McLaren, Aston Martin, Ford and Seat, and with entries open for this year’s competition, a new wave of promising innovators is gearing up to pitch its ideas to industry leaders.
Katie Jones, a finalist in 2011, went on to become lead designer for colour and materials for Jaguar’s crucial new SUV, the F-Pace. Here, she tells us how, following on from her Next Generation Award experience, she went from student to designer at a leading manufacturer.
How did you end up working at Jaguar Land Rover?
“I have had a very busy few years. After graduating from the University of Leeds in 2012 with a BA (hons) degree in design and colour technology, I had only one weekend before starting out as an interior designer.
“My first project was designing a high-end car ‘innovation’ showroom, then a 5000-square-foot luxury retail showroom in central London. The showroom displayed bespoke tailor-made suits, handbags and accessories, exclusive handmade furniture, an art gallery, fine wines and champagnes, and it was a really useful project to kick-start my career.
“Working as an interior designer in London was fantastic, but my passion remained with the automotive industry. An opportunity was presented to me to work as a colour and materials designer at Jaguar Land Rover, and I jumped at the chance.
“With the design experience I had, and also additional experiences such as the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award, I was offered my dream job.”
What was it like working on the Jaguar F-Pace?
“It has been a privilege to work on the new F-Pace. Taking a very well-received concept car into commercial production was very exciting. “I was the project lead designer for colour and materials. It was a challenging but very rewarding role, especially seeing the final product come to life.
“My primary objectives were the development and delivery of both interior and exterior materials and finishes for the car, liaising with design, marketing and engineering along with external suppliers to ensure the design intent and vision was maintained throughout the development process.
“I presented ideas, strategies and updates to management to keep them informed of progress throughout.
“The role required a high knowledge of material performance and requirements as well as an understanding of past, current and future market trends.
“I have been very fortunate to work with a dynamic and enthusiastic team where we can implement innovative materials and designs.”
What’s your advice to people entering the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award this year? “If you can identify a gap in the market, the opportunity to present your ideas to a well-connected and experienced panel is incredibly rewarding but can be extremely challenging. It’s very important to be clear and confident when you communicate your idea to the panel.
“The Next Generation Award can open doors and offer crucial experiences for the next generation of designers wanting to enter the world of the automotive industry.”
Your chance to get involved
If you’re aged between 17 and 25 years old and have an idea that would improve the UK automotive business, describe it in 1000 words and you could be in with a chance of winning £9000 and six months’ work experience. This year, the three finalists will present their ideas in front of industry experts, including Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Jo Lopes, head of technical excellence at Jaguar Land Rover, and Autocar editor-in-chief Steve Cropley.
“The motoring industry is in a really fascinating state, and there’s a bewildering number of fantastic car companies to indulge in,” Cropley says. “There’s something for everybody, and youth is really important to manufacturers, so it’s a brilliant time to get involved in the industry. This is a truly vintage era.”