While it might be too much to expect engineering to take centre stage at the forthcoming election, it would be a surprise not to see the importance of manufacturing and technology talked up more than it has been in recent decades.
And as the three parties finesse their arguments and refine their policies, they’d do well to the heed the advice of Prof Chris Snowden, president of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET).
In a candid interview with The Engineer, Snowden – one of the UK’s most influential engineers – outlines a vision for the future of UK engineering refreshingly free of some of the more emotive clichés that tend to define debate about the state of the industry in the UK.
Snowden begins from a familiar standpoint. The value and contribution of engineers to society is overlooked, and there are problems, possibly rooted in our education system, on how the profession is perceived. His suggestions on addressing these perceptions issues though are measured and straightforward. Should engineering be taught as a separate subject at schools? No. But should engineers be encouraged to enter teaching? Absolutely. Should there be chief engineer? Yes. But not simply because there’s a chief scientist, but because engineers are frequently the individuals best placed to make considered decisions. Ultimately, he says, we need to build on the fact that economic, environmental and political concerns have conspired to make it an exciting time to be an engineer.
This point is expanded on by iMeche chief Stephen Tetlow, who, writing here, discusses the implications for industry of a hung parliament, which according to the latest opinion polls is looking more likely by the day.
While many commentators regard the prospect with horror, Tetlow suggests that a hung parliament may actually be a good thing for the UK engineering industry.
The Engineer has long emphasised the need for cross-party cooperation on big ticket engineering projects, the kind of projects that outlast ministerial careers and require the sort of long-term commitment not typically associated with politicians. Perhaps a hung parliament could provide the framework for this kind of cross-party collaboration on the projects and technologies that will be contributing to the economy long after the current crop of politicians have shuffled out of Westminster.
On the subject of collaboration, we will shortly be starting the search for the best of the UK’s collaborative projects as The Engineer Technology and Innovation Awards 2010gets underway.
Now in its fourth year, this year’s competition will address the full breadth of the UK’s technology landscape and reward outstanding examples of collaboration wherever they occur: whether between business and academia, or between separate businesses, or, indeed, groups of Universities.
If you’re involved in a joint initiative with an academic or commercial partner you may well be eligible to enter and could find yourself joining the finalists at the Royal Society in London in December to find out if you’re winner. Full details of the various categories and how to enter will soon be available at our awards website http://www.theengineerawards.co.uk