The 2011 Winners – UK manufacturing finds itself under the spotlight

Manufacturing in the UK has come in for an unusual amount of scrutiny over the past year. While most of the country is usually content to ignore it – apart from when it’s complaining about its demise – this year, the manufacturing sector has been the subject of two BBC documentary series, along with a variety of newspaper articles both slating a perceived lack of ambition and trying to promote the resurgence of the sector.

This is all a result of the financial crises slipping worryingly into armageddon situations all across Europe. Increasingly, politicians and economists are agreeing that the UK has to boost its exports, rebalance its economy, and grow its way out of trouble – although opinions differ as to how to do that. But manufacturing is clearly a key part of the puzzle and the role of engineers is of obvious importance.

“Collaboration has always been one of the main ways that engineers work: it almost defines the profession”

At the same time, it’s becoming clearer than ever that engineers can’t work in a vacuum. The days of a single institution or organisation originating, developing and marketing an invention are long gone (if, indeed, they ever existed) and collaboration is being embraced whole-heartedly. The new Technology and Innovation Centres are an attempt to organise and harness the creativity of different disciplines of engineering from different types of organisation towards the technological goals the country needs to dominate growing sectors.

But collaboration has always been one of the main ways that engineers work: it almost defines the profession, using the laws of pure science to solve society’s problems. Our fifth Technology and Innovation Awards honours the achievements of collaboration across all the sectors The Engineer covers, with fascinating and inspiring stories from wave and tidal power, to life-saving surgery and the factory floor.

Once again, we and all our sponsors would like to congratulate the winners, the shortlisted candidates and everyone who entered. We believe they represent the UK’s best hope of future, sustained prosperity.