Technology must be at heart of coalition thinking

Graham Paterson
Director of Governance and Policy
IET

This year’s general election was full of surprises and I expect will be remembered for many years to come. But what does a coalition government mean for professional bodies such as the IET?

Clearly, the government is faced with numerous difficult decisions, many of which should be made in consultation with the engineering and technology community. We have a huge amount of value to add to policy-making when it comes to issues such as energy, transport and communications, to name only three. This is why the IET is preparing to roll out activities that place engineering at the centre of policy-making.

Engineering the Future provides a one-stop shop for independent engineering expertise

Previous governments have complained that the engineering profession was too disparate to engage with. To overcome this criticism, the professional engineering community has formed an alliance called Engineering the Future, an umbrella group comprised of the IET and other UK engineering organisations representing nearly half a million engineers. The alliance provides the new government with a one-stop shop for independent engineering expertise and advice.

This alliance has a shared vision, making it a far more influential voice when speaking to decision-makers.

The community has five key policy priorities for the new government:

  • It must sustain and encourage investment in skills for the future. This must include encouraging more people to study science and engineering.
  • It must make the UK a leader in low-carbon technology, both as a supplier and as a user.
  • It should capitalise on the value of the UK science and engineering research base. The UK possesses a world-class science base, but only engineering and technology can harness this knowledge to bring products to the market and ensure a sustainable future for our environment.
  • Public spending should be used to encourage innovation. Even following the expected deep cuts, the government will still be spending large sums of money that could be used to invest in innovation in UK-based products and services.
  • Engineering advice must play a more central role in government policy-making. The delivery of most areas of public policy has an engineering dimension that is best considered at the outset of the policy-making process and before any commissioning. It is the view of the alliance that the UK economy will become stronger if the new government takes engineering advice when formulating policy so that we are all prepared for the challenges ahead.

UK energy policy is very important as huge reductions in carbon emissions across all energy users are needed to achieve decarbonisation targets for 2050. Concerns about energy security are especially significant and much of the existing infrastructure needs to be replaced. It is vital that new ministerial teams engage with impartial experts and take the actions needed to secure our energy supplies and move the UK towards a low-carbon economy.

Over the coming months the IET will be meeting with ministers and MPs both in Westminster and through a series of briefings. One such event will be held at the Palace of Westminster on 30 June, where the engineering community will brief MPs and their researchers on the benefits of consulting with the professional engineering community. With 228 new MPs in parliament it is vital that we form new relationships, as well as cementing existing ones.

Now that the government is in place, the hard work begins of making sure it is properly engaged with the engineering community. With the help of our colleagues in other institutions, we can achieve that goal.

Graham Paterson

Director of governance and policy
IET

Education
1972 Graduated from Royal Air Force (RAF) College with a BSc in aeroelectrical engineering
Career
38 years serving as an engineer in the RAF; operational tours on a variety of aircraft, weapons and telecommunication systems. Several spells within the Ministry of Defence, including equipment procurement and supply operations.
Director of engineering and supply officer training at RAF College Cranwell
2003 Joined the then IEE as director of governance and policy. Paterson is a chartered engineer, a chartered electrical engineer, and holds fellowships of the IET, the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Chartered Management Institute