Search for an engineering star, and engineering searches for stars

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Your chance to be a face of engineering on television, the start of a landmark space mission, and signs of improvement in manufacturing are all on this week’s agenda

Last week The Engineer reported on a poll which found eight per cent of teenage respondents looking favourably on a career in manufacturing compared to 26 per cent wanting a career in marketing and media.

A reader comment on this story ended with a plea for, ‘a few TV series showing the ‘problem solving’ nature of engineering, presented by an engineer or scientist with charisma.’

A show similar to the one our reader might like to watch is currently being pulled together and you have an opportunity to be an integral part of it.

Wag TV is in the process of casting a TV show for the Discovery Channel in which the presenters visit hoarders’ garages, disused workshops, and scrapyards in the hunt for scrap parts.

The show, which sounds like a cross between Salvage Hunters and Scrapheap Challenge, will see the dynamic duo will make a decision on whether the found piece of scrap can be restored or modified and sold on for a profit.

Wag TV tell us no qualifications are necessary for the on-screen role ‘just a proven track record and a passion for an engineering challenge.’

Interested parties should contact Natasha Henry at nhenry@wagtv.com by Thursday 29th August.

This Thursday sees Gaia, ESA’s five year space astrometry mission, make its first moves to the European spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana, where it has a launch window of  November 17 to December 5, 2013.

The primary mission of Gaia will be to precisely chart the distances, movements, and changes in brightness of our galaxy’s stars. The ‘census of a billion stars’ will do this by monitoring target stars around 100 times over the course of the mission. ESA add that the Astrium-built craft is expected to discover hundreds of thousands of new celestial objects and identify tens of thousands of asteroids.

Gaia will be shipped in two phases: the spacecraft will fly to Cayenne from Toulouse on Thursday evening. Its sunshield will be despatched on August 28, 2013.

A full breakdown on Gaia and its mission can be found here in The Engineer’s July 2013 cover feature.

Early August saw the publication of two reports indicating a relative upsurge in manufacturing.

EEF’s half-year Economic Prospects report stated that manufacturers have upgraded their growth forecasts whilst Markit/CIPS’ Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) signified five consecutive months of expansion.

In the same week the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported a 0.6 per cent rise in production between the first and second quarter this year and SMMT predicted a rise in new car registrations of 2.216 million units, 8.4 per cent ahead of 2012.

Further tentative signs of recovery have been revealed today by CBI and EEF, with the former revising its GDP growth forecast upwards and the latter indicating that manufacturers are increasing innovation in new products, technology and research.

CBI has raised its GDP growth forecasts for 2013 to 1.2 per cent, an increase of one per cent compared to its May forecast. The business group attributes its revision to an encouraging second quarter and signs of a restoration in confidence in sectors that include manufacturing.

In a statement, John Cridland, CBI director-general, said, ‘The economy has started to gain momentum and confidence is picking up, but it’s still early days.

‘We need to see a full-blown rebalancing of our economy, with stronger business investment and trade before we can call a sustainable recovery. We hope that will begin to emerge next year, as the Eurozone starts growing again.

‘The government needs to get behind talented UK businesses to help them break into new export markets and sell great British products and services around the globe.’

More details can be found here.

Meanwhile, EEF say Britain’s manufacturers are looking expand their presence in emerging markets over the next three years.

Their EEF/NatWest Innovation Monitor found that 71 per cent  of the 147 companies surveyed plan innovation to export to new markets in the next three years.

A further 73 per cent said they plan to bring new products to market over the same period, with 75 per cent saying speed to market is advantageous but speed of innovation ‘remains a top concern’.

To meet these goals 66 per cent of companies collaborate with a research institution, half collaborate on research with organisations overseas, and European research funding is identified as proving positive for UK companies.

This momentum will be maintained, say EEF, if the government maintains its positive contribution to growth by announcing a long-term commitment to the Technology Strategy Board and improving access to the new network of Catapult centres.

Steve Radley, EEF director of policy, said, ‘After a long and slow recovery manufacturers are looking to drive growth through innovation, developing new products and services for new markets.

‘However, the demands of selling into new markets have increased the ‘need for speed’ when it comes to innovation, something that remains a key challenge for manufacturers.

‘Encouragingly, government schemes are well-targeted to help manufacturers, but in order to deliver the stability companies need, there must be a longer-term commitment to innovation funding.’