Lord Browne of Madingley FREng FRS had been Group Chief Executive of BP plc for more than a decade. As Academy President he made it his mission "to move engineering to the centre of society", identifying several grand challenges where an engineering contribution would be decisive: climate change and energy, poverty reduction and the improvement of health and wellbeing.
The global financial crisis of 2007/8 generated a renewed appreciation of the importance of engineering in a rebalanced economy, which was evident during a year-long parliamentary inquiry into engineering. In its influential 2009 report, the Select Committee for Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills concluded that engineering had the potential to transform the UK economy and to support recovery from the global recession. It also recommended that future decisions on critical issues needed to have engineers at the heart of policymaking.
A key recommendation was that government engagement with engineering should begin with the Academy, which would coordinate and lead the efforts of the professional engineering community. The Academy hosted two significant initiatives working with the engineering profession: Education for Engineering (E4E) had real impact from the start, advising government on all aspects of engineering education. Engineering the Future aimed to make a unified contribution to engineering-related policy with government commissioned several reports including Global Water Security, Infrastructure, Engineering and Climate Change Adaptation and Nuclear Lessons Learned.
Global Water Security (1.84 MB)
Nuclear Lessons Learned (883.79 KB)
Education activities expanded rapidly. While continuing to support high achievers at undergraduate and graduate levels, through activities such as the Engineering Leadership Awards, the aim broadened to one of inspiring young people from all backgrounds with the excitement of engineering. The Academy supported the creation of the new Technician Council, designed to elevate the status and recognition of technicians.
Two education reports by the Academy had significant impact. Educating Engineers for the 21st Century (2007), led by Professor Julia King CBE FREng, considered the skills that professional engineers would need for the new century. Graduate Engineers for Industry (2010), chaired by Professor Sir William Wakeham FREng, pointed to experience-led learning as the key aspiration for future engineering degrees.
Educating Engineers for the 21st Century (573.20 KB)
Policy studies continued to tackle complex issues, from privacy and surveillance, energy scenarios for 2050 and electric cars to the philosophy and ethics of engineering, which led to a profession-wide Statement of Ethical Principles. The Academy also investigated the potential risks and benefits of the emerging field of synthetic biology. This work would result in a series of joint symposia with the science and engineering academies of China, the US and the UK.
Statement of Ethical Principles
An ambitious new public affairs and communications programme went hand in hand with professional public engagement, aided by the Academy's new Ingenious grant scheme. The Academy took a leading role in the Cheltenham Science Festival and was, from its beginning in 2009, a strategic partner of the Big Bang Fair.
In 2010, The Africa-UK Engineering for Development Partnership was launched. This major enterprise brought together the engineering communities in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK in a consortium led by the Africa Engineers Forum, the Academy and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
In 2007, the Academy moved to 3 Carlton House Terrace, alongside the other national academies.
Led by Sir John Parker GBE FREng, a development campaign was designed to promote the Academy as a Forum for Engineering and as a valuable partner for engineering industry. This attracted keen interest and substantial funds. By mid-2011 the Academy was ready to start major building works to transform its public facilities. The campaign also established an Education and Engagement Endowment Fund aimed at attracting more young people to engineering.