Professor Anthony O’Neill forecasts disaster for engineering in Britain if the shortfall in high quality A-level students continues.
O’Neill is Siemens professor of microelectronics at the University of Newcastle. Presenting the Siemens lecture on The Mysteries of the Microchip as part of Set week, he said there was a shortfall of around 15,000 engineers a year among the UK’s 100 universities.
To meet demand, colleges should produce around 30,000 graduates a year.
The situation will get worse. By 2010, a silicon chip the size of a coin will already be 1,000 times more complex than it is today, he forecasts. And engineers will be needed to push scientific knowledge to the limits.
The development of chips for high temperature automotive engine management systems involves looking at newer materials such as germanium which operate around 50% faster than silicon and at temperatures up to 500 degreesC rather than the 200 degreesC of silicon.
Siemens is sponsoring work on deep submicron silicon technology that allows more components to be packed on to chips.
Almost invisible mirrors measuring 16x16um are being developed by Texas Instruments. They are being built into prototype display screens which work by electrostatic tilting in and out of the light beam.
Despite such developments, O’Neill says: `Our (science-based) courses have no street cred. Most people prefer to do theatre studies which they see as more interesting.’