The Royal Academy of Engineering is taking part in the Government’s new campaign to promote science, launched today.

Backed by the science community and celebrities, ‘Science [So What? So Everything]’ will show that science and technology helps people live their everyday lives, is crucial to help strengthen the UK economy and central to meeting some of the major challenges of our time.

It is launched as a new poll shows a high level of people have faith in science to make positive changes in the future. Of those polled, 48% said they expected science to find a cure for cancer in the next 30 years with 38% expecting crops that can survive drought becoming a reality over the same period.

Asked what would have the most impact in shaping their futures, 26% said science – putting it ahead of money, politics, family and religion.

However, just three per cent of people thought that scientists have an affect on everyday lives. It is this kind of disconnect the campaign aims to address as well as improve overall public attitudes towards science. More than half of respondents to last year’s Public Attitudes to Science Survey thought that science was too specialist for most people to understand with a high proportion excluding themselves for not being ‘clever enough to understand it’.

The Academy’s own research on public attitudes and perceptions towards engineers and engineering, conducted with the Engineering and Technology Board and BMRB in 2007, revealed that 2 in 3 young people know very little about engineering and almost 3 in 4 don’t understand what engineers actually do.

Academy CEO Philip Greenish, who attended the launch at Number 10 Downing Street, said: “This important initiative emphasises how science and engineering are at the heart of our society, a message that the Academy is very active in promoting. The key message is that science and engineering surround us and open up a world of great career possibilities to young people”

Today’s launch kicked off with a debate between Cabinet Ministers and high profile figures with an interest in science including author Terry Pratchett, chef Heston Blumenthal, businessman James Caan and actor and comedian Ben Miller. They discussed ways in which science can be taken to a wider audience to promote public engagement and understanding.

Touch Bionics, winner of the 2008 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for innovation for i-LIMB, the world’s first bionic hand, also visited No. 10 Downing Street today to join the Prime Minister for the launch of this campaign as an example of the vital role science and engineering play in improving people’s wellbeing and quality of life.

This evening, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham will join the Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson at a specially organised Building the Britain of the Future Expo. They will discuss with young entrepreneurs and new businesses in growth areas the key role science and innovation will play in building tomorrow’s Britain - particularly in the current downturn.

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham said “Particularly in an economic downturn, our ability as a nation to innovate and build links between good science and business will be a measure of how we will emerge stronger when the upturn comes. We need to seize the opportunities that future challenges will inevitably bring by working together to continue our investment in talent, research and innovation.”

The campaign has been designed and supported by the Government working in partnership with the seven UK Research Councils, the Royal Society, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Science Association, HEFCE and the Technology Strategy Board. It delivers on many of the responses to the Government’s Science and Society consultation, a summary of which is published today.

Notes for editors

  1. The Public Attitudes to and Perceptions of Engineering and Engineers survey can be found at http://www.raeng.org.uk/pa
  2. 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.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0636