‘Engineering will be the main beneficiary of the QE Prize’

The UK will benefit no matter which country emerges as the winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, claims Buro Happold’s Paul Westbury.

Paul Westbury: Britain will benefit

With one month to go before nominations close for the Queen Elizabeth (QE) Prize for Engineering, a member of the judging panel has told The Engineer that the UK will benefit no matter which country emerges as the winner of the competition, to be announced next year. ‘The winner will be engineering, and the UK will benefit from that, because we have such fantastically strong and innovative engineering here,’ said Paul Westbury, head of the global sport and entertainment practice at engineering consultancy Buro Happold.

The QE Prize, whose winner will receive £1m, was conceived as a ‘Nobel Prize for Engineering’ to recognise and honour innovations that have made a clear and demonstrable benefit to society and humanity. Administered by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), nominations for the award close on 14 September.

‘It’s important that engineers start talking about what they do, because one of the classic problems with our profession is that the impact we have is immense, but we too often fail to celebrate it,’ Westbury said. ‘I guess we’re modest folk; we spend so much time solving problems that we don’t spend enough time celebrating the answers.’

The competition is open to all disciplines. ‘Engineering is such a broad profession that there are no boundaries or barriers to innovation or creativity,’ Westbury said. And while he sees it as fitting that the UK, as the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the founder of technologies from the steam engine to the jet engine, is organising the prize, Westbury stressed that the RAEng is looking for entries from anywhere around the world. ‘The principal aim is to demonstrate the advantages that come from innovation. Anything that promotes engineering will mean that the UK will see a benefit,’ he said.

Nominations should be for technologies that have been proved to work and deliver a benefit. ‘Blue-sky thinking and bright ideas are wonderful; they fuel our imagination and will solve problems tomorrow,’ he said. ‘But they need to wait until tomorrow to be entered, so they can prove their benefit.’

So far, Westbury and his fellow judges on the international panel have yet to see any of the nominations. ‘I can’t wait to see what comes in,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be fascinating.’

For more information on the QE Prize and to make a nomination, please visit its website.