Mr Ian Heptinstall FCIPS

Ian Heptinstall

School of Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor of Project Management

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Ian Heptinstall is Associate Professor of Project Management, and lead tutor for the MSc in Industrial Project Management.

Before moving to academia in 2019, he spent 35-years in project management, procurement, and supply chain management roles.

He has managed projects in the process industry as both project owner and a supplier. These ranged from portfolios of smaller upgrade projects on manufacturing sites, to larger investments in new manufacturing assets.  Roles covered the full project lifecycle from initial opportunity investigation and option generation, through to commissioning and transition to ongoing operations.  He led one of the first collaboratively-contracted ‘project alliance’ projects in the chemicals industry, in the 1990s.

More recently he was Supply Chain Director for a construction company in the UK, and after that he spent seven years working all over the world as a supply chain & procurement coach and trainer.

Ian specialises in capital and construction projects, with a particular interest in systems thinking and collaborative procurement.

He is a mechanical engineer by qualification, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, and a member of the Association for Project Management’s Contracts & Procurement specific interest group.  He is author of The Executive Guide to Breakthrough Project Management.


  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (2015)
  • CDDP & CDDL (2015-17) Demand Driven Planner/Leader
  • MIMechE, CEng (1988 – lapsed)
  • B.Eng in Mechanical Engineering with Management, Imperial College London. (1985)


Ian Heptinstall is a late-career academic, joining the university in 2019.

He graduated from Imperial College in 1985, having studied on what was then an innovative ‘enhanced’ 4-year degree blending a mechanical engineering BSc with a management MSc.

He was sponsored at university by the global chemicals company ICI, who he joined after graduation.  He worked for ICI for 15 years to 2000, in a range of project management, maintenance and procurement roles, living on both the UK and France.

Between 2000 and 2002 he worked for initially Glaxo Wellcome and then GlaxoSmithKline following Glaxo’s merger with Smithkline Beecham.  He then spend 2 years in the procurement and supply practice of a niche supply chain management consultancy.  Assignments took him to the USA, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Italy as well as the UK.

In 2004 he was Procurement & Supply Director (CPO) for a UK construction contractor. His transformation programme was recognised in 2007 with UK National Training Award.

Between 2010 and 2017 he worked for the procurement consultancy PMMS/ArcBlue on a range of training and consultancy assignments that took him to over 25 different countries on short-term assignments.  Between 2013-15 he worked in the UAE to establish and run a new local office, primarily supporting the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply by delivering training programmes – both ad-hoc and qualification-based (UK Level 6 Diplomas).

Between 2017-19 he worked independently as a coach and trainer.

He joined the University of Birmingham in 2019 and lead a major update to the established MSc in Industrial Project Management.

LinkedIn profile.


MSc in Industrial Project Management.

Guest Lecturer at University of Southern California (2019-21) and University of Stellenbosch Business School (2020).


Although his university role is mainly teaching-focused, Ian has broad research interests across project management and procurement, which is used to continuously develop the taught MSc content.

He is particularly interested in the application of systems and complexity theory to the execution of projects.

His working hypothesis is that project management has ‘lost its way’ over the last 50+ years.  Many of the fundamental principles for managing projects do not need to be discovered, they need to be re-discovered, and systemically applied.

One current area of interest is emerging ideas about project planning, and whether today’s conventions are causing more performance problems than they are solving.

Other activities

  • Member of the Association for Project Management’s Contracts & Procurement specific interest group. Co-chair 2020-22.  (2017-)
  • Advisor on project alliance contracting and critical chain (private consultancy – 2020-22)
  • Procurement training to NATO and IMI (private consultancy 2019-20)
  • Chair of organising committee for Critical Chain 2020 conference (Nov 2020)
  • Conference facilitation volunteer for TOCICO (2019-)