Stephen Evans

Professor Steve Evans


Steve studies how to create a sustainable world at scale. He works with large and small organisations, and governments, who are trying to radically reduce their currently unsustainable impacts.

Stephen Evans

Steve Evans is Director of Research in Industrial Sustainability at the Institute for Manufacturing, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge. He leads what is probably the largest global research team trying to improve the environmental impact of the world’s industrial system. Steve started working in his first factory in 1976, before becoming Engineering Systems Manager at Martin-Baker Engineering, where he helped design and make the world’s best ejection seats. Helping save 2 lives per week and working on a product that has 2 seconds to succeed, often travelling at up to 1000kph, was too much fun and forced a change in career into teaching and research.

Now at the University of Cambridge, he tries to find ways to help industry become sustainable, and is particularly interested in inexpensive solutions – expensive solutions are too easy! His team comes from across the globe, solving problems in Africa and Asia as well as the advanced economies. Steve has led the first UK research into multi-disciplinary engineering teams, the first into eco-design, the first into Circular Economy and many other projects, totalling over £30 million. Steve loves to bring people together to solve tough problems.

Steve has been a millionaire and lost it – twice. So he will not be offering financial advice. He has co-founded a number of clean technology start-ups and has held various posts advising industry and international governments, including Specialist Adviser to the UK House of Lords Science & Technology Committee. Steve is a father of two adult sons, a black belt at judo and mildly autistic. Steve is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering & Technology, Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment and was recently elected by his peers as a Member of Academia Europaea.

Research Interests

Current research focuses falls into three parts. Firstly on the role of systemic inefficiencies that continue to exist in the industrial system. For example, working with factories making jeans in Asia to reduce the water needed to make each pair of jeans from 3500 litres to 0.4 litre! 

Secondly on the role of business model logic in accelerating or delaying sustainable business behaviours – for example working with WWF to build new ways for large companies to purchase sustainable alternatives, when that more sustainable alternative comes from a start-up while larger companies prefer to get their supply from larger companies. 

The final set of research studies how system transformation could contribute to delivering a sustainable world. Projects include designing factories where the air, water and soil is cleaner coming out than going in.

This research is conducted across over £17M of projects that are delivering change in the UK, China, Brazil, New Zealand and elsewhere.

Recent public explanations can be found at Falling Walls 2018 (the annual conference to celebrate the falling of the Berlin Wall) and through our work with schoolchildren who are encouraged to go on treasure hunts for energy, water and material savings in real factories.


Director of Research in Industrial Sustainability, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
Guest Professor, Northwestern Polytechnic University, Xi’an, China
Chair of the Board, Project X (a WWF spin-out)