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Brompton teams with Williams F1 to break into the E-bikes arena – Eleanor Sherwen presents

By Raheela Rehman and Anne Clarke

Eleanor Sherwen, a Brompton Bicycle Engineer, opened the Institute of Physics East Anglia Branch “Women in Physics seminar series 2018” on 11 April 2018. Travelling through a brief history of bicycles, Eleanor introduced her Brompton story that progressed her career as a woman in STEM. You might ask, how does Formula 1 drive the iconic Brompton electric-bike? The answer is surprising.

It is not the first time that the automobile industry and bicycle market have been related.
The Rover company that produced the household Rover cars, was founded by John Kemp Starley, when he invented the Rover safety bicycle in the 1880s. His revolutionary design, the ubiquitous diamond shape bike frame, was closer to the ground, with both wheels of equal size and steerable front. The bike evolution moved on to the light weight aluminium frame. In the early 20th Century, folding bicycles were used by the military for ease of mobility, with trade-off between speed and portability. The 1960s brought the Moulton, the precursor to the modern folding bike. The British bicycle manufacturer was founded by Dr Alex Moulton CBE, a Cambridge engineering graduate who had designed the rubber cone suspension systems for the Mini motorcar. Moultons are noted for their unconventional frame, and front and rear suspension. More recently, frames were designed with carbon fibre, think the Lotus favoured by the Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman.


Andrew Ritchie MBE, also a Cambridge engineering graduate, firmly sits with the bicycle designer greats, when he invented the Brompton folding bike. It was in the 1970s whilst living in London, Andrew was introduced to Bill Ingram, who at the time was raising funds for the folding Bickerton bicycle. Their conversation inspired Andrew’s own innovative design of a new light weight folding two wheeler. Sat in his bedroom overlooking the Brompton Oratory, the name of the now world famous Brompton was born.

Crowd funding his first prototype from friends and family, Andrew headed to Raleigh to licence his new design. The unfruitful meeting led to Andrew raising funds from shareholders instead and manufacturing the first 400 bikes. Although they all sold, applications for bank loans for further funding were declined, as the banks doubted the business would succeed, heralding a four year quiescent period. However, his bicycle sales garnered traction, especially in the boating community. Here, they had a bike that was compact enough to take on board their boats. Julian Vereker, who had purchased one of the first 400 bicycles, founder of Naim speakers and a boating enthusiast underwrote a bank loan to Brompton. And so, the next leg of the Brompton journey set in motion, further funding and a factory later, full production began.


Today Brompton Bicycle Ltd has three key features:
– two-thirds of all Brompton bikes are sold outside of the UK
– complete in-house design
– own tailored accessories

Eleanor Sherwen’s joined Brompton in 2014 as a Design Engineer. She graduated in Product Design Engineering from Brunel University, trained in Lean Six Sigma at Coopers Lighting Industries, and worked as a Mechanical Device Engineer at Measurement Device Ltd (now a part of Renishaw). Throughout her career, she has worked closely with electronics engineers. Her work at Brompton Bicycle Ltd in Research and Development includes prototyping tools, fast learning and response, CAD, Finite Element Analysis for component stress distribution, cast fatigue testing, as well as material porosity analysis to ensure there is no baseline drift, which left unchecked can lead to component failure.

For the last two exciting years, Eleanor has worked on the first Brompton electric-bike. Battery-powered, the new bike will be launched in July 2018. Her research and development experience in mechanical engineering and design provided a natural movement into programming. Developed with the motorsports giant Williams F1 Engineering, the bespoke battery provides 250W, and can be instantly mounted or removed. Not without its challenges, Eleanor worked on the technology debugging and using sensor feedback. One of the biggest tests has been the human response factor and marrying expectation with output. The smart integrated torque sensor responds to the human feedback mechanism. This provides an optimised end-user experience, including uphill cycling assist.


As an engineer, Eleanor has taken stock of the pure versus applied sciences. The axiom of pure research provides accumulation of knowledge, underpinning the applied. From Eleanor’s personal viewpoint, application of sciences gives context to the wider world. As one part of a solution, her application impacts by way of reduction in human obesity or preventing deaths from improved air quality.

The growing market for the new Brompton electric-bike is for inner city living. Conforming to European law, the new bikes will have a staggering top speed of 25km/h. Traditionally electric-bikes have had higher suburban sales due to the availability of outside storage space. Urban spaces are at a premium, outside secure storage is limited, and therefore city dwellers prefer to store their electric-bike inside their homes. The Brompton electric also provides the ideal solution for those whose journey to work is at the borderline of cycling or driving to work.

Brompton Bicycles is the largest bicycle manufacturer in the UK. It is an entrepreneurial success story, synonymous with quality and manufacturing, and Eleanor Sherwen is a part of that. Pick up your Brompton this summer.

Join Dr Ceri Brenner (STFC Central Laser Facility, Oxford) for the next seminar in the IOP Women in Physics series: Pressing FIRE on the most powerful laser in the world:

1st May talk: Empowering Women Leaders

Our journey to Antarctica


What better place to sharpen one’s leadership skills than amidst the harsh landscape of Antarctica. The frozen continent is filled with stories of leadership from the early 20th century explorers and their race to be the first to set foot on the South Pole. For 78 women in STEM from around the world, Antarctica was the backdrop for their own explorations into leadership as part of Homeward Bound Projects.

Come join CamAWiSE co-chair Cathy Sorbara and University of Cambridge PhD student Hannah Laeverenz Schlogelhofer, 2 of the women chosen for this leadership program, as they reflect on their experience, why it is so critical to empower more women leaders, what they learned about themselves and working with others on board, and how it will influence their future careers and hopefully inspire others in the audience. And of course, learn more about the continent they have come to love and advocate for.


photo by Cathy Sorbara


Book now! It’s only 2 weeks away

Tuesday 1st May. 19:00-21:00

Special prize £7 Members and Students. £10 Non-Members

Coffee, tea, and cake included.

Aurora centre. British Antarctic Survey

High Cross, Madingley Road.


Member & Students Non-Member

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Book, print, and share! CamAWiSE Wine tasting

Join us for our Annual Wine Tasting event with Cambridge Wine Merchants. It’s a CamAWiSE traditional social gathering, where we have the opportunity to discover a little about wine and enjoy the company of other women in STEMM and related areas.

The evening includes the tasting of several good quality wines and food (usually cheese, charcuterie, bread, and olives) and expert hosting by Cambridge Wine Merchants. It’ll be FUN, informal and informative!


Tuesday, 17th April 2015, 7.30pm
£21 members, £25 non-members. 

Booking now closed!


CamAWiSE Wine tasting.



Tuesday, 17th April 2015, 7.30pm
£21 members, £25 non-members. 

Booking now closed!

Natacha Wilson and how to run successful projects by Aldara B. Dios

At the International Women’s Day, we were fortunate enough to have Natacha Wilson as the host of the workshop “10 tips on how to run successful projects”.


We started the evening sharing our story with a friendly face: What do you do? and What kind of project have you managed? The list was broad and diverse, which included annual reports, file Athena Swan applications, clinical trials, family holidays and house expansions.

And before starting with her tips, Natacha asked us again, what makes a project successful for us? That was a pivotal question as we needed to know what to achieve before starting. Some of the answers were recurring, but some of them not. The meaning of success it was found, is different in each case and depends on the environment of the project.


Once success was defined, we explored how we would do we achieve:

  1. Gain consensus on the goals. One way is setting SMART goals, that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-based. On every project, if you know your specific and measurable goals it is easier to know when it’s a success.
  2. Build and BE the best team you can. Although nowadays the lens is a lot on processes and performance, without the right people the project doesn’t happen. It was related to “No one person can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra”.
  3. Design, update and share a project plan. Many project managers make the mistake of not sharing the project plan with the team. Again, the team is essential!
  4. Determine what you need in advance. Plan, schedule, and Identify the tasks, sequence them, estimate time and budget, add key milestones and with that create a draft schedule.
  5. Be realistic with your schedule. People don’t work 24/7. Be MOSCOW to prioritise. Define the Must do and Should do goals and prioritise those from the Could do and Would do. On most of the projects the Must do and Should do are the least interesting but, should be prioritised and the team should understand this.
  6. People matter. Take care of your team and understand it. Not only do you need the people with the right skills, you also need people who work well together and have the experience needed.
  7. Teammates should know the needs of the others and yours. For that, you have to communicate with them.


  1. Create and innovate. Solve the problems trying new ways to do things.
  2. Praise and empower your team. And remember that if you have to criticize someone it has to be balanced, objective, observed, specific and timed. And never focus on the person but on the problem.
  3. Have fun!

To end the evening Natacha asked us to reflect on and explore at least three of the questions we talked about during the workshop.


Thank you, Natacha, for such a fun and productive evening.





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