The Next Generation of talent – Nicole Agba interview

05 December 2014 #SMMT News

Autocar Courland winner - small

At last week’s SMMT Annual Dinner, Coventry University graduate Nicole Agba was announced as the first ever female winner of the sixth Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award. We spoke to Nicole to find out more about the inspiration for her entry and her future in the industry.

Nicole’s drive to work in automotive design began when she was only 13 years old. Stuck in a traffic jam, her mind began to wander as she thought about global warming and CO2 emissions. That was when inspiration struck, as Nicole considered that it must be possible to design cars that both looked appealing, but were also less of an impact on the environment. Nicole already knew she wanted to be a designer, but this sparked her interest in designing cars.

The example demonstrates Nicole’s keen eye for future trends, as the automotive industry has made significant reductions in vehicle emissions. The average new car now emits 41% less CO2 than in 2000, and demand for alternatively-fuelled vehicles is rising strongly – all without a compromise on attractive design.

Nicole knew that she wanted to be a designer specialising in materials – but why the automotive industry? She says that it’s this focus on consumer trends and behaviour, and its impact on the design that interests her. In particular, she is inspired by the innovative nature of the industry, and the opportunities to experiment with exciting technologies from other sectors.

In fact it was technology from the medical industry that was the inspiration for her entry into the Autocar-Courland competition, ‘Steer Right’. The design uses a Smart Fabrics Interactive Textile, which enables the steering wheel to assess whether the driver is too drunk, tired or even angry to be able to drive safely by monitoring the individual’s heart rate, respiration and blood alcohol levels.

Like many areas of industry, young women are vastly under represented in the automotive sector. Nicole’s advice to other young women who are considering a career in the field? “In all male-dominated industries, it’s really up to the individual to push themselves and get past any barriers they encounter. If it’s something you want to do, don’t let anyone get in your way or say you can’t do it.”

In an industry where practical experience is vital, it was the prize of five months’ hands-on work experience at Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, Peugeot, Skoda and Toyota that motivated Nicole to apply for the award. The experience will kick-start what is sure to be a successful career in automotive design.

Applications for next year’s Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award will open online in 2015.

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