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History of the Academy

1976–1981: Establishing a track record

The Fellowship, under its first President, Lord Hinton of Bankside OM KBE FREng FRS, now set out to build a track record. As it had been established to recognise excellence in all fields of engineering, particular priority was given to demonstrating its interdisciplinary expertise. Learned society activities began in 1977, when The Fellowship held its first annual soiree, 'to illustrate the best in British engineering', and founded its Distinction (later Christopher Hinton) lecture series. Good relations were fostered with the Royal Society and working parties were set up on subjects such as the education of engineers and technicians in relation to materials, which became the first Fellowship publication in May 1978.

The choice of subjects on which to report reflected the fact that best engineering practice is not just a matter of innovative technology but of safe procedures, reliability and minimisation of harmful by-products. One well-received report published in 1981 examined abatement technology for reducing lead in the environment. Another, on product liability, led to one of the first of many requests to advise government or parliamentary bodies on engineering issues. By 1979 growing recognition of The Fellowship's interdisciplinary expertise within government was marked by an invitation from the Department of Industry to advise on ways of improving manufacturing performance. Meanwhile another Fellowship working party on engineering research was part of the impetus leading to the replacement of the Science Research Council by the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) in 1981.

Within its first five years The Fellowship was thus already exerting growing influence. It had also begun to establish its credentials as a conduit for international discussions with overseas national engineering academies, as a founder member of what was to become the Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS) in 1978.

After some difficulties in the very early days, The Fellowship was becoming increasingly financially secure, after an appeal for funds in 1978–1980 raised almost 1,000,000. It undertook a successful and expanding range of activities, including the annual MacRobert Award for excellence in engineering innovation, which the CEI had administered since its inception in 1969–1970, until The Fellowship's autonomy from a beleaguered CEI. Discontent amongst the engineering institutions with the CEI was underlined by the 1980 Finniston Report, culminating in its disbandment in 1983, and its replacement by the original Engineering Council.

 

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