This year’s Engineering Section at the BA Festival of Science is a debate addressing the motion:

“This House believes that design and marketing can compensate for poor engineering”

Engineers are unquestionably ingenious but, nowadays, more than just ingenuity is required to make money from a product.
Seconding the motion is Linda Doyle of Trinity College, and also in favour is architect Ian Ritchie.

Linda will focus on examples from mobile communications to health to entertainment to show that good engineering principles don’t always play a role.

Ian Ritchie will give an exposé of his investigations behind the design of the Dublin Spire. It will touch on the poetic intent and whether this monument is architecture, engineering or sculpture. Ian will suggest a case that achieving the end result is as much about the power of the marketed image in society as it is about the experienced reality.

Opposing the motion is aerospace engineer Mark Gillan, former head of Vehicle performance at the Jaguar Racing Formula One team and Clive Lee, President of the European Society for Engineering and Medicine.

Mark will highlight why design and marketing prowess are no substitute for poor engineering and will give specific examples from his extensive experience within Formula One that highlight the perils of placing more importance on either marketing or/and design over engineering practice.

During the presentation he will attempt to help ‘lift the lid’ on the secretive world of F1, providing the audience with an understanding of the structure and operating environment within a F1 Race Team including how the £1billion+ industry is funded. He will also explain the relative importance of the main vehicle performance metrics, including an overview of the key areas regarding the engineering process of a F1 car - highlighting recent innovations.

Finally Professor Gillan will discuss how one measures engineering success within the sport and how F1 and motorsport in general could potentially utilise its engineering excellence to provide a timely conduit to secure the long term economic future of UK aerospace, by helping them achieve their environmental goal of reducing emissions, through increased efficiency, by 50% by 2020.

Clive’s talk promises to be contentious. We have designer labels, designer wines, even designer drugs. But what does it mean? If design means purely a look or fashion statement, then crop tops and bumsters are not a major problem – though you might catch a cold while wearing them. Marketing has sold sand to the Arabs and bottled water to the Irish.

Together, design and marketing make an almost irresistible combination. But what if the product can kill? Design and marketing made the Titanic unsinkable – and what of the Hindenburg? Would you opt for style over substance?

Good design takes account of the materials used and the purpose of the product. Design classics are well engineered and fit for purpose – the Eames chair, the Dyson vacuum cleaner, the Golden Gate Bridge. But beware of imitations. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge looked as good as the Golden Gate, but blew apart in a gale of wind!

Supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the whole day promises to be a treat for all those attending with five presentations in total, a discussion, and vote.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, the Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. The BA is the UK’s nationwide, open membership organisation dedicated to connecting science with people, so that science and its applications become accessible to all. The BA aims to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science and technology and their implications.
  3. The BA Festival of Science is one of the UK’s biggest science festivals. It attracts more than 300 of the best scientists and science communicators from home and abroad who reveal the latest developments in research to a general audience.
    The BA Festival of Science 2005 will take place at Trinity College, Dublin from 3 - 10 September 2005. The Engineering Section ‘Is Engineering Ingenuity?’ takes place on Tuesday 6 September 13.00 – 17.45, Panoz Building LT3.

For more information please contact

Dr Claire McLoughlin at the Royal Academy of Engineering
Craig Brierley at the BA tel: 020 7019 4947