Government launches prize to inspire young engineers

An international engineering award has been launched today to celebrate the individuals whose work inspires and advances society. 

To be awarded biennially, the £1m Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is open to an individual or team of up to three people directly responsible for an advance in engineering that has led to ‘significant international public benefit’.

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the prize is the result of a growing realisation in the worlds of business, engineering and policy of the need for a pioneering initiative based in the UK to focus attention on engineering worldwide. 

A number of major engineering companies have donated to an endowment fund, which is being managed by an independent charitable trust, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, chaired by Lord Browne of Madingley FREng FRS. The Royal Academy of Engineering will deliver the prize on behalf of the trust, with the first prize being awarded in 2012.

Speaking at the launch event in London’s Science Museum, Lord Browne said the award should make people aware of the importance and enjoyment of engineering so that they are inspired by, and aspire to be, engineers.

‘As the bridge between scientific discovery and commercial application, engineering feeds and clothes us, and enables us to work, travel and communicate,’ said Lord Browne. ‘But too often the engineers behind the most brilliant innovations remain hidden. The Queen Elizabeth Prize is aimed towards changing that. It will celebrate, on an international scale, the very best engineering in the world.’

Prime minister David Cameron added that companies such as Arup, Rolls-Royce and projects such as Crossrail remain relatively anonymous in the public psyche, despite Britain’s rich industrial past.

‘High-skilled, high-value manufacturing and engineering should be a central part of our long-term future,’ he said. ‘I hope this prize will go some way towards inspiring and exciting young people about engineering, so that they dream of becoming engineers as they once did in the age of Stephenson and Brunel.’

‘This prize is timely and symbolic,’ said Stephen Tetlow, chief executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. ‘Engineering has been in the shadows for far too long. You can have as many Oscars and Nobel prizes as you want, but unless you have engineers, the essentials of life fail. 

‘Engineering holds the key to unlocking the massive critical challenges facing the world today — from overpopulation to climate change. Our lives depend on it.

‘We need a new generation of great engineers more than ever. The Queen Elizabeth Prize will inspire the new wave of leading engineering minds that we so urgently need.’

The appointment of an international judging panel will be established by February 2012 and nominations for the first award will close in July 2012.