Skip to main content
Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Benjamin Williams

Benjamin is a strategic humanitarian innovation designer. His practice is a novel methodology to unravel messy and complex real-world problem spaces to identify how communities can be supported with agency to promote rippling positive impact. His foremost interest is tackling offshore inequalities (meaning societal unfairnesses occurring away from land).


  • Royal Commission of the Exhibition of 1851
  • Snowdon Trust
  • Young Lives vs Cancer
  • The Alexandra Sales Trust

Benjamin Williams

IDE has been transformative down to my core having occurred at a time of intense change. I am unique. A trailblazer of the path least walked, guided by the embers of my lived experience.

I entered the double masters of Innovation Design Engineering having completed my Bachelor of Music (composition) at Brunel University London. While music and design engineering may appear starkly distanced, the transition was organic. After all, I have experienced an ever-present tension between the creative and technical within my practice. For example, I pushed against the limit of what my lectures would assess by teaching a computer to compose for me and creating a tool to generate a performer's digital shadow, otherwise, respectively, termed algorithmic music and interactive art.

The start of IDE was a pivotal moment in my life. I was gaining the tools to facilitate change at a time of awakening to unfairness in urgent need of change. See, during the 18 months prior to IDE, I endured serious illness. My body and mind were pushed to the utter limit but then, following the final day of treatment, I was abruptly introduced to a new life of limitations. In the absence of fanfare, I began the journey to repair, redefine and rebound.

Plain Boat began with as an investigation into ghost boats; recreational sailing boats at their end of life.

Throughout my childhood, family holidays were spent sailing -- learning to swim was practically a survival skill. Without realising, I gained a deep respect and appreciation for the marine environment. It was my maternal grandparents who introduced boating to our family when they started sailing dinghies in the 1960s. When my mum and uncle arrived, they had stepped up to a GP14 and, shortly before my brother and I arrived, a Westerly Centaur. Along the way, my grandparents made life-long friends with a couple on a nearby boat called Suzanna.

The motivation for this project came after age called an end to their sailing days and so Suzanna was sold. But, for whatever reason, the new owners simply never visited so Suzanna remained in the mooring untouched for three years. It was a sad sight to see her deteriorate. Then, presumably once the expense of the continuing fees of the marina grew to an untenable amount, we noticed that she had been moved to a mooring out on the river. And it was this that opened my eyes to just how many boats are abandoned, left to die, out of sight having a detrimental effect on the environment.


When flood strikes, the number one priority is to get to safety quickly

and this is made much easier with access to boats or watercraft. The challenge: how might we get good boats to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible in the chaos of a humanitarian disaster?

So, what is the context of this issue? In the last two decades, 4.03 billion people were affected by flood disasters and flooding accounted for 44% of all global disasters. However, the impact is not felt equally across the world. Where higher income countries experience the greatest economic losses, it is lower income countries which have the highest average number of deaths per disaster event.


Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (2020). Human cost of disasters: An overview of the last 20 years, 2000-2019.

Ciocan, C., Kristova, P., Annels, C., Derjean, M. & Hopkinson, L. (2020) Glass reinforced plastic (GRP) a new emerging contaminant - First evidence of GRP impact on aquatic organisms. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 160, 111559. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111559.

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (2011) Government Review of Waste Policy in England 2011.

Haines, R. (2017) Assessment of the Impact of Business Development Improvements around Nautical Tourism. doi:10.2771/26485.

International Maritime Organization (2019) Hull scrapings and marine coatings as a source of microplastics.

Royal Commission of the Exhibition of 1851

Industrial Design Studentship