Government must address the bigger picture and not just short-term political expediency in tomorrow’s Budget, say Britain’s leading engineers. The Royal Academy of Engineering wants to see action to support a more diverse future economy based on engineering innovation and wealth creation, to future-proof the country’s infrastructure and to grow the engineering skills we need.
Engineering skills are essential to create and sustain the workforce supporting the real wealth creation in the manufacturing sector - recent figures show the UK will need to recruit an estimated 325,000 new engineers and technicians into manufacturing by 2017.
Government should make good its intention to identify higher education programmes and activities that “make a special contribution to meeting economic and social priorities” and to redeploy funds, on a competitive basis, to those universities that are able and willing to develop new or expanded provision in such areas. These will undoubtedly include the best engineering courses which include real experience of engineering in industry as an integral part of their teaching, as spelt out in a new Academy report Engineering Graduates for Industry. Government needs to increase radically the involvement of industry, both national and local, in engineering education and drive universities to share knowledge and facilities to allow them to deliver the highest quality engineering training to students.
Infrastructure for a low carbon economy
Renewing our national infrastructure is both an economic opportunity for UK plc and a basic requirement to provide the reliable energy needed to drive the economy out of recession.
Fundamental restructuring of the UK’s entire energy system is also unavoidable if it is to meet future energy demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, even assuming that energy demand in all sectors can be substantially reduced, according to a report Generating the future: UK energy systems fit for 2050 published last week by the Academy. The scale of the engineering challenge is massive – the country will need to exploit its renewable energy resources to the maximum and supplement this with other low-carbon sources including nuclear power and coal- or gas-fired generation fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS). If we are to achieve this, the scale of the undertaking will require the biggest peacetime programme of investment and social change the UK has ever seen.
Government should provide all possible support, within national and international legislative frameworks, to encourage the transfer of knowledge from the research base to commercial application. The UK has a poor track record in nurturing and retaining growing companies – many growing companies have relocated outside the UK to take advantage of preferential tax and grant regimes. The R&D tax credit scheme should be enhanced to ensure that the UK is positioned ahead of its European competitors.
Lord Browne of Madingley, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says "The economic impact of engineering stretches far beyond the measurable output of factory production lines. From agriculture to IT, and from manufacturing to finance, engineering solutions are deeply embedded in every area of economic activity in the UK. Engineers will sit at the heart of efforts to rebuild a balanced economy based on a greater diversity of industries. Engineering solutions will also help to address the grand challenges facing society in the 21st century, including poverty, improved access to food and water and combating climate change."
Notes for editors
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; email: Jane Sutton