Britain’s got talent

The Paul Jackson Column

The spirit of innovation is alive and well in the UK, with a record number of patents filed last year and increasing interest in inventing and exploiting new technologies among schoolchildren. We have to encourage this entrepreneurial spirit, says Engineering UK’s chairman

We recently carried out a survey into Brits’ inventiveness and I was amazed to find out what a nation of budding engineers we have. Parents and young people are realising what British business and industry know only too well: science and engineering innovation is what is needed to kick back against the recession.

In fact, our research shows that a third of people claim the recession has played a part in the mounting number of ‘light bulb’ moments they’ve had. And these brainwaves are not just pipedreams either. One in three adults is going back to basics to get to grips with the science and technology principles behind their ideas, realising that a better knowledge in these fields will help to fuel their success.

More than one in ten adults has created a model or prototype of their invention and the same number is looking into or has already applied for a patent in the last year. In fact, latest figures from the Intellectual Property Office show that 2011 was a record year in the UK with 29% more patents granted than in 2010*.

‘It’s great to see that the younger generation is also turning to science and engineering to come up with inspiring creations

We need to harness this enthusiasm for invention, and it’s great to see that the younger generation is also turning to science and engineering to come up with inspiring creations. A fifth of 11 to 18 year olds are coming up with new ideas and inventions inside the classroom, and one in twenty has been looking into or applying for a patent in the last year alone. This entrepreneurial spirit is certainly in evidence at The Big Bang Fair where young people involved in the National Science + Engineering Competition showcase a truly eclectic and awe-inspiring collection of inventions. 

Through The Big Bang programme the engineering community has established a way to gives these inquiring minds a place to go, to make the connection between innovation, entrepreneurialism and invention and science and engineering and to find out how their interests can become a career. Registration opened on Monday 1 October, so bring your kids along to the family day on Saturday 16 or Sunday 17 March 2013 at London ExCeL and let them see it for themselves. 

Science and technology hold the key to not only transforming individuals’ lives but the state of our country’s future economic growth. In business we know that we’re an invention nation and it’s exciting to see that individuals are thinking of themselves that way too. After all, these are the young people who will become the scientists and engineers of the future.

Paul Jackson is Chief Executive of EngineeringUK

* Research was undertaken for The Big BangUK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair by Censuswide among a sample of 2,000 parents and young people aged 11-18 from 14-20 August 2012.

**Patent Applications Granted – 2010 and 2011 Calendar Years –