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Creating a Northern powerhouse, and celebrating Britain's historical ingenuity

One of England’s most scenic train journeys is set to go by in a high-speed blur, if the Chancellor’s plans come to fruition.

With the dust yet to settle on the controversy surrounding HS2, George Osborne will today float the idea extending high-speed rail beyond Birmingham to link the cities of Manchester and Leeds.

A high-speed link across the Pennines would, in Osborne’s opinion, would provide added connectivity in northern England that could help the region catch up with London and the Southeast.

In a speech set to be delivered in Manchester, the chancellor will say: ‘The cities of the north are individually strong, but collectively not strong enough. The whole is less than the sum of its parts. So the powerhouse of London dominates more and more. And that’s not healthy for our economy. It’s not good for our country.”

‘We need a northern powerhouse too. Not one city, but a collection of northern cities – sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world. Able to provide jobs and opportunities and security to the many, many people who live here, and for whom this is all about.’

Its the start of the Manufacturing, Science and Technology Week at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool and EEF are marking the occasion with the launch of a report that highlights a lack of awareness about British engineering ingenuity.

’The EEF report shows that 54 per cent of those polled knew that the jet engine was invented in the UK

For example, their report shows that 54 per cent of those polled knew that the jet engine was invented in the UK. A more encouraging 69 per cent were aware of the steam engine’s British origins but only 31 per cent knew that the electric motor was invented by a Briton.


Turbojet inventor Sir Frank Whittle - an engineering role model?

EEF say that by ‘failing to celebrate the ‘brains’ behind Britain’s life-changing inventions, we are failing to provide our next generation with heroes - and leaving young people with little reason to want to follow in their footsteps.

Terry Scuoler, CEO of EEF, said: ‘Inventiveness and resourcefulness are written into our collective DNA. Unfortunately, our strengths appear to be flying under the radar and this could damage our ability to innovate in the future. If we want to Make it Britain then we have to wake up Britain to the innovation, creativity and design going on within our shores today. Our success didn’t end with the steam engine – it carries on from strength to strength with carbon fibre, bionic limbs and now the hypersonic engine too. We should be proud of what our inventiveness contributes to the world.

‘If Britain is to continue to innovate then we need to start shouting about our achievements. We have to ensure that everyone is aware that success lies before us and not just in the past. Above all, we must give greater recognition to our inventors and innovators, so as to encourage more young people to want to learn the right skills to follow in their footsteps.”


Made in Britain: the Gloster Meteor’s W2/700 jet engine

EEF’s report is due to be launched at Liverpool’s Life Sciences University Technology College by business secretary Vince Cable.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is seeking nominations for its Innovation Awards, which acknowledge achievements across 16 categories that reflect ‘the breadth of science, engineering and technology.’

Now in its 10th year, the awards are free to enter and entries are welcomed from manufacturing companies of any size, whether independently owned or as part of a larger organisation. Nominees may choose to showcase innovation within products brought to market within the last five years, or processes within the plant where potential has been realised.

Some of our readers are convinced that this periodical’s editorial team has been taken over by the sort of Right-On Ronny that columnists like Rod Liddle refer to as the ‘metro-liberal elite’.

That doesn’t, however, stop Briefing flagging up an event that has very real relevance for the engineering sector and has nothing at all to do with box ticking or fulfilling quotas.

The event in question is a one-day conference titled Women in Engineering: The Challenge, which forms part of the inaugural National Women in Engineering Day organised by the Women’s Engineering Society.

The organisers say: ‘diverse teams of engineers are not only more productive but also more profitable…assuming we all agree that we need more women in engineering, the question to ask is: ‘What are we going to do about it?’

Readers' comments (12)

  • HS2 and now HS3 - these high speed links are going to be less and less important as we move to an information lead society. Of course we still need some physical movement of goods but this can be by slower but more energy efficient (rail) transport links.

    Unfortunately the Chancellor doesn't' really have any grasp on technology and doesn't get it that high speed links are really very expensive, only affordable by the few and very un-green!

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  • China achieves speed in construction by working on large construction projects at all points at the same time.

    This requires more workers, but also creates more jobs and gets things done faster.

    We could try the same to get things done before the baby boomers retire, and to get the unemployed out of the job centres and off the streets.

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  • Brian M, re your comments:

    1. The Chancellor recently gave (not lent) £60m to Reaction Engines, so I think he knows a lot more than you give him credit for.

    2. If we manufacture and export more, as country, we need to shift our freight by rail more.

    3. This means extra rail capacity needs to be built.

    4. Instead of building conventional additional lines, be ambitious, future-proof and build high speed ones to aid efficient connectivity.

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  • Time and time again over the years Engineers have come up with amazing things and time and time again consecutive British governments have failed abysmally to comprehend the importance of what it is they are being asked to look at. As a result British inventions emigrate to countries where other governments are equipped with the cognitive ability to recognise the possibilities of what Engineers offer. As a result it is they that provide the hard cash needed to turn idea’s into reality. British governments for far too long have been more interested in investment banks and the quick short term bucks they pay in taxes that go to swell the exchequers vaults.
    Other than the land it will devour how much British product is to be found in HS2? Locos? carriages? Control systems? After Sizewell B how many British Engineers will be involved in designing and building the next generation of nuclear power plants? For thirty years and more the political classes have supervised the death of British engineering on the altar of short termism until of course the City screwed every one including its greatest worshippers in Westminster.
    Perhaps we need an Engineer as Prime Minister instead of the usual toffs infatuated with the City of London and a few more Science and Engineering degrees in the cabinet!

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  • Terry Scuoler’s term ‘our strengths appear to be flying under the radar’ could actually sum up why there are few engineering ‘public’ heroes especially in the UK. Since WWII it could be argued that engineers have enjoyed their back room Boffin cultural status ‘ ie flying under the radar’ being semi disconnected from the rest of society to be able to just ‘get on with it’.

    Like K Jones I’d like to see more Politicians with Science and engineering degrees – although I wonder if when engineers and scientists suggest this, they think that all government decisions will then be made rationally (ie as Scientists and Engineers think). Fortunately Democratic politics is at least ideally about ‘representing the will of the people’ and involves making Moral decisions by politicians for which science informs but should not be the only consideration. By having spent so much time ‘flying under the radar’ are E&Ss at present suitable to have the messy unprecise arguments which making these decisions involve. I’m not saying they cannot – but it surely means that (some) Engineers have to broaden their education not narrow it to technical issues, if they want to carry out political-leadership roles.

    Perhaps a slight wheeler & dealer such as Edison would be a good model, rather than a Frank Whittle or Barnes Wallis. Can anyone recall what Churchill – some who I have many issues with but was a true political leader – studied? Probably not because it didn’t matter as much as his wide ‘worldly’ experience

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  • Graham Farmelo's latest book 'Churchill's bomb' has some very interesting insights into Churchill's attitude to science.

  • So millions to be spent on design and costing while we will shortly be paying companies to turn off their power because there will soon be insufficient capacity to keep the lights on reliably. The bulk of transpennine freight will continue to go by the M62, or the M67-A628 Woodhead Pass connecting Manchester and the M1. More flexible.

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  • I warmly support George Osborne's HS3 initiative, and also any attempt to get more women into engineering.

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  • No problem with women becoming engineers, the big problem comes when they decide to have children and go off on maternity leave for 6 months.

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  • As with HS2 but more so- the time saved on a train journey is only relevant if the origin and destination are at stations on the same high speed route
    By the time taxi or other transport from office to station and station to destination are added the saving is trivial
    As I and others have said before - let's spend the money on 21st or 22nd century technology - starting with universal high speed broadband so we can video conference

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  • I read about these various advances in technology -and the need to improve and speed up-communication on the same day that one of the defendants in the 'phone-hacking' matter is declared guilty: albeit after a trial that has thus far taken 240 days and cost well over £35 million. Just who is kidding who?

    As long as that type of nonsense continues unchallenged why on earth should we Engineers spin our wheels(sorry about that) to reduce costs?
    best. Lets set about increasing them as much as possible so that we too gain from the conflict, not its outcome.
    Mike B

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