Skills gap, rocket men and towering achievements

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Briefing starts the week with gloomy news from the Royal Academy of Engineering which today warns that the UK needs to increase the number of STEM graduates it produces.

The study says around 100,000 STEM graduates are required per annum in order to maintain the status quo and reportedly argues that the UK is falling down the international innovation league tables, adding that British firms are looking abroad for the expertise they require. Look out for an article from the report’s author in The Engineer later this week

Today’s news resonates with a warning last week from the SMMT, which argued that the UK is the ‘destination of choice’ for automotive investment, adding ‘urgent action is required to address an impending skills shortage in key industry areas.’

One project that aims to stimulate young minds, and encourage them toward STEM subjects, is Bloodhound SSC and The Engineer’s Stuart Nathan will be in attendance when the project’s team test-fires the vehicle’s hybrid rocket on Wednesday.

With a combined output of 95 F1 cars, the engine’s test represents the latest developments in getting the Mach 1.4 vehicle ready for its attempt on the land speed record.

BLOODHOUND’s engineers will be testing the complete rocket system, which comprises a Cosworth CA2010 F1 engine, High Test Peroxide tank, custom designed gear box, software and Falcon Hybrid Rocket, at Newquay Cornwall Airport.

Swapping sectors but not the ‘wow’ factor is London’s latest landmark, the Shard, which is up for discussion this Wednesday with the IET London Network and BETNET hosting an evening devoted to the 309.6m high building.

The so-called ‘vertical town’s’ inauguration in July was said to represent ‘a 12 year journey to build a significant new landmark on the London skyline’, and, like or not, it certainly fulfils its brief.

Over in China, however, plans are afoot to build the world’s largest tower in just four months.

According to the Sunday Times, the 220-storey, 838m skyscraper in Hunan Province will be built from prefabricated metal frames with plumbing and power supplies fitted as parts of the building are put together.

The brainchild of Zhang Yue, the building would accommodate 30,400 people in flats and would include hotels and a shopping mall.

Work on the structure is planned for November, provided planning permission is approved.

In the interim, those attending Wednesday evening’s event will be able to learn about aspects of the Shard’s design, including how building services were made to ‘disappear’ and how hundreds of pieces of glass appear as one.

Guest speakers include David Healy, Arup; Andy Seman, Adamson Associates; and Richard Mawer, WSP Group, an engineering consultancy that believes a more joined-up approach is required to mitigate flood risk.

In a statement issued today, they say local authorities and central government, through DEFRA and the Environment Agency (EA), are attempting to provide guidance about – and promote – retrofitting and new design in dealing with flooding issues.

WSP believes EA and DEFRA focus mainly on major schemes at a catchment basis and on regulation of proposed developments, whereas Local Authorities deal mainly with surface water flooding and flooding of ordinary water courses.

According to WSP, this means ‘the issue of adapting whole communities to the future risk through design and planning, particularly existing buildings, is not being addressed adequately.’

Finally, the chief executives of BAE Systems and EADS are expected to meet European and US leaders this week in order promote the proposed merger of the two companies.

The chief executives of BAE Systems and EADS, Ian King and Tom Enders, stated over the weekend: ‘We are very focused on agreeing arrangements which protect the strategic and national security interests of the governments with which we work, particularly in France, Germany, the UK and the United States…We propose to replace the shareholder arrangements which currently give Daimler, Lagardère and the French state joint control over EADS.

‘That would mean creating a business with governance structures which would enable it to operate in a normal commercial manner and which confers the same rights on all shareholders, large and small.’