What would be the advantages and disadvantages of the government appointing a Chief Engineering Adviser?
The advantages are that it will act as a focus for concerns and ideas of the engineering community and an effective way of communicating this to the higher authority.
A possible disadvantage is that it could be a layer of bureaucracy that may become ineffective over time and part of the establishment rather than a true conduit for the engineering community at large.
What are the highest priority areas for government spending to enhance the UK’s capability in your sector, and in technology in general?
There is a need for an increased R & D spend, investment in training and tax cuts.
Which recent government policies have been particularly effective for your sector, and which (if any) have been a hindrance?
The increased tax burden is becoming a hindrance (both from direct and indirect taxes), as a result there is a risk that having a presence in the UK will become less cost effective for multinational companies.
Which of the engineering and technology sectors are underperforming in the UK currently, and what could be done to bolster them?
With the exception of pharmaceutical and aviation, many engineering sectors are underperforming. Things that could improve this situation are tax breaks to help companies locate new jobs and keep existing jobs in the UK; investment in high-calibre R & D in some of the under performing sectors and measures to raise the general status of engineering through better training, remuneration and career development prospects.
Which areas of technology research do you think are best coordinated by the European Union, and which are better left within the UK?
Large scale collaborative programmes such as development of new aircraft is best coordinated by the EU.
What are the biggest opportunities for growth in your sector, in the short and medium terms?
Safety systems in Asia Pacific and the BRIC countries.
What is the best way to approach technological goals in the long term (ie, with results more than five years off)? Can and should government play a role here?
It is essential to have a coherent strategy that involves all stakeholders (industry, educational establishments, government and professional bodies) and a viable plan to execute that strategy. Government can and should play a central and important role in coordinating and facilitating this process and ensuring that the plan is adhered to.
What do you think of the current status of engineers in the UK? What can be done to enhance it?
Currently engineering is considered to be a second rate profession and is definitely less prestigious than other professions such as law and dentistry. This is evident from university intake where engineering tends to miss out on the brightest and most academically able students.
To improve things there is a need to grant professional status to engineering and award the title ‘engineer’ through registration with professional bodies where engineers are granted accreditation to be able to practice. This is similar to Doctors, lawyers and dentists who would not be permitted to practice without professional registration and accreditation.