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History of the Academy

1981–1986: Growing influence and activities

The Fellowship was going from strength to strength. It was able to take over the CEI's offices at 2 Little Smith Street, Westminster. It had already begun to establish its advisory role and now, in line with the objectives set out for his five-year term as President by Viscount Caldecote KBE DSC DL FREng in 1981 on succeeding Lord Hinton, The Fellowship was to work to promote engineering excellence in industry.

One priority was to improve the links between industry and higher education, and thus encourage both research and engineering degree courses to become more closely related to industry. It was to foster this relationship, and to stimulate more applied research, that the Fellowship launched an industrial research fellowship scheme in 1982 supported by the Wolfson Foundation.

Meanwhile, the forging of links with the SERC enabled The Fellowship increasingly to influence research strategies and to develop its own activities. In 1983 it took over the administration of the SERC's International Visiting Fellowship scheme (later renamed Engineering Secondments Overseas). This sent outstanding young engineers on secondments overseas for six to twelve months, to broaden their experience and to learn about new technological developments. A similar scheme, to send promising young engineers on secondment to Japan, had been set up in 1982, funded by the Department of Industry.

These successes underlined The Fellowship's suitability to take a lead in engineering-related research and training programmes, the development of which required further funding. The Fellowship therefore approached the Government for Grant-in-Aid to support its programmes, its interdisciplinary and growing international activities, and studies on national engineering issues. It was successful and Grant-in-Aid began in 1984.

The initial grant was 150,000 a year. Although modest, it underlined the extent to which The Fellowship had become established. Originally set up under the auspices of the CEI, it acquired its own Royal Charter in 1983, which clearly set out its objectives as the promotion of excellence in engineering through education, training, innovation, research, development and design and the provision of advice on matters concerning the overall practice of engineering.

The Grant-in-Aid facilitated a steady expansion in The Fellowship's activities, carefully tailored to further the objectives set out in the Charter. International contacts developed rapidly, the most notable early example of this coming in 1985, when The Fellowship hosted the fifth convocation of the Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences in London.

The Fellowship began to expand its advisory role. One innovation was the Parliamentary Group for Engineering Development, set up in 1986 as a forum for expert briefings for parliamentarians on engineering-related policy and legislation. The Fellowship also suggested forward looks at future technological issues and requirements, leading in 1985 to a study for the Department of the Environment on abatement technologies for treating acidic emissions.

The Fellowship was concerned that it should not become over-dependent upon Grant-in-Aid, but should seek funding from industry and other sources. This ability to demonstrate funding leverage and industrial support for The Fellowship's activities helped to encourage a steady increase in Grant-in-Aid.

The first substantial industrial funding came in 1984 with the setting up of the Panasonic Trust by Matsushita Electric, to celebrate ten years of successful operation in Britain. This continues to provide grants to assist engineers in updating their knowledge and skills to keep up with technical and safety developments in the ever-changing field of engineering. Over 500 engineers have benefited.


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