Engineering key to economic growth, reveals prestigious international QEPrize Create the Future report

Global findings highlight top role of engineers in solving the world’s problems

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The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering today released the inaugural Create the Future report, an international survey of attitudes towards engineering surveying respondents in global centres for engineering including the US, Germany, Japan, Turkey, India and Brazil.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is the highest international accolade for engineering and recognises groundbreaking global innovation to inspire the next generation of engineers.      

The Create the Future report was commissioned to mark the presentation by Her Majesty The Queen of the 2015 QEPrize Trophy to Dr Robert Langer FREng for his groundbreaking achievement in bridging the boundaries between engineering, chemistry and medicine. His pioneering work in developing a large molecular drug delivery system to treat diseases like cancer has benefited two billion people around the world. The report reveals that:

  • Engineer tops the list of professions seen as most vital for economic growth. Other professions include business leader, lawyer, doctor and teacher.
  • 57% believe engineering is critical in solving the world’s problems, particularly in the US, UK and Germany.  
  • In Japan, engineering is seen as a driver of innovation.
  • Interest in engineering remains higher amongst men (66% vs. 43%) but the gap is closing fast in emerging economies such as India and Brazil.
  • People in the US, Germany and India show the highest numbers rating engineering as a top career opportunity.
  • Interest in engineering still lags behind wider STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), 55% vs 91%.
  • 71% of people think engineers’ contribution to society is undervalued and they deserve much more recognition.

The Create the Future Report is supported by insights and opinion from leaders of some of the world’s leading companies as well as eminent engineers from medicine, energy, IT and infrastructure.

Solving the world’s problems

The QEPrize Create the Future report shows that an overwhelming majority of the public in each of the 10 countries surveyed agree that engineering has driven progress in society in the past and will do so in future.

  • 8 in 10 countries believe solving the world’s problems is the number one priority for engineering in future, Japan and Turkey being the exceptions.
  • People of all ages agree this is more important than solving their own countries’ problems.
  • Improving renewable energy, advanced computer technology, infrastructure, healthcare and online security were the top five challenges the public felt engineering could solve in the future.

Recognising and understanding engineering

  • 71% claim that their country’s engineers do not receive the recognition they deserve for their contribution to society.
  • Though interest in engineering lags behind interest in STEM, the gap is much narrower in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries surveyed. In India 99% are interested in STEM subjects and 83% in engineering compared to the UK where the figures stand at 89% and 43% respectively. 
  • Whilst more men than women in all countries show an interest in engineering, the gap in interest is smallest in emerging economies such as India, Turkey, China and Brazil. The UK, Japan and South Africa show the greatest difference.

Inspiring the next generation

  • In countries with growing economies, engineering holds huge attraction for the next generation. For example, in both India and Turkey, around 80 per cent of 16-17 year olds say they are interested in engineering.
  • Younger people are more attracted by making a contribution to society than career opportunities 

Creating opportunity

The Create the Future Report also demonstrates which country of those surveyed felt there was the greatest opportunity for engineers.

  • People in the US were most confident in the opportunities that exist for engineers.
  • Germany and India closely follow but countries such as South Africa and Brazil felt the opportunities do match the growing interest in engineering.  This is perceived as a lack of investment in training.

Lord Browne of Madingley FREng FRS, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, said of the QEPrize Create the Future report:

“The QEPrizeCreate the Future report shines a light on a great many positive changes in our industry. As an engineer, I am enormously encouraged to see that the public thinks engineers are capable of solving the world’s greatest problems. It is also encouraging to see that people think the priority for engineers should be improving renewable energy and healthcare, not just traditional engineering infrastructure such bridges and buildings.

“However, the report also highlights some of the perception problems that the engineering community continues to face. Without combatting the lack of understanding surrounding our profession and changing persistent stereotypes we will not attract the next generation of engineers to meet the challenges of the future.

“The QEPrize aims to highlight the engineering achievements that have the greatest impact on society, to raise engineering’s international profile and inspire young people to consider the wealth of opportunities that an engineering career offers.

“There is a responsibility on governments, industry, academics, teachers, parents and grandparents to encourage young people to share in the excitement of engineering innovations and the endless possibilities of a career in this vital sector.”

Dr Robert Langer FREng, winner of the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Prize, said:

“Being awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a huge honour. I was shocked to receive such an incredible award. It is wonderful that The Queen recognises the importance of engineers around the world and engineering is being honoured in such a way.

“I am reassured the Create the Future Report confirms engineering outputs are valued around the world and considered genuinely life changing. I take heart in the number of people who see engineering as a great way to contribute to society; that is what motivated me and inspired my work on mental health and cancer treatments.”

For further information or interview enquiries, please contact:

  • Joshua Leigh
    +44 (0)7979 210272 (preferred)
  • James Rollinson
    +44 (0)7976 115654
  • media@qeprize.org
  • QE@edelman.com

Notes to editors

  1. Create the Future
    The Create the Future survey, examining public attitudes to engineering involved over 10,000 people from 10 countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, United Kingdom, and United States of America. 
  2. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
     The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a global £1 million prize that celebrates the engineers responsible for a ground-breaking innovation that has been of global benefit to humanity. The objective of the QEPrize is to raise the public profile of engineering and to inspire young people to become engineers.
    QEPrize website    
  3. Winner of the 2015 QEPrize, Dr Robert Langer FREng
    Dr Robert Langer FREng was announced the winner of the 2015 QEPrize in February 2015 at the Royal Academy of Engineering. Dr Langer is a leading bioengineer and entrepreneur. He is one of 11 Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the highest honour that can be awarded to a faculty member. Prior to this role, he was the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Dr Langer is an internationally acclaimed inventor and engineer, with over 2000 patents and published articles. His research focuses on the field of bioengineering. He was one of the first chemical engineers to work in the surgical sector, becoming a pioneer in drug delivery, tissue engineering, and nanotechnology. Dr Langer's research laboratory at MIT is the largest academic biomedical engineering lab in the world, maintaining over $15 million in annual grants and over 100 researchers. Dr Langer is also currently on the board of directors at Bind Therapeutics and Advanced Cell Technology. He was elected an International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010.
  4. Contributors to the Create the Future report
    Lord Browne of Madingley FREng FRS, Chairman, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, said:
    "As an engineer myself, I was heartened by the report’s findings. People around the world recognise that engineering is a key driver of both progress and innovation, and that it will play a vital role in solving the challenges that humanity will face in the years to come".
    Bob Dudley FREng, Group CEO, BP, said:
    "More energy is required to lift millions from poverty. Yet we need energy to have less environmental impact. We should ensure young people understand the opportunity – to be an engineer and to shape the future."
    Dr Ralf Speth KBE FREng, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover, said:
    "Engineers are vital for prosperous and healthy societies around the world. Their innovations can solve the most complex of problems and achieve what, just a few years ago, we believed was impossible. Advanced manufacturing could not keep progressing without the constantly enquiring minds of engineers pushing us to do things faster, better and more efficiently. We continue to work hard to engage young people in engineering at all levels of education, from science taught in primary schools to cutting-edge university research."
    Helge Lund, Chief Executive, BG Group, said:
    "Engineers will build our future. This report recognises the great contribution engineering can play in solving some of the world’s biggest issues."
    Steve Holliday FREng, Chief Executive, National Grid, said:
    "I firmly believe that our continued success as a company – and as a society – depends on the bright, inquisitive minds of the engineers, scientists and technicians of tomorrow."
    Nigel Whitehead CBE FREng, Group Managing Director, BAE Systems, said:
    "Our sector needs to work together to overcome some of the outdated stereotypes and old-fashioned notions that engineering isn’t a career suitable for women. We must do more to show all young people, and their parents, that engineering is a great career choice and be bolder about the importance of STEM subjects."
    Professor Juergen Maier, Chief Executive, Siemens plc, said:
    "To see people’s faith in innovation and engineering as the future number one driver to solving the world’s problems is inspiring and also challenging. It lays down the gauntlet to us as leaders in the engineering industry to make this happen."
    Professor Choon Fong Shih, University Professor, National University of Singapore, Singapore, said:
    "The report shows that the optimism people feel for the ability to drive innovation is not limited to any single economy. Across each of the ten markets people are looking to engineering to solve the world’s problems."
    Dr Robert Langer FREng, Winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering and the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, USA, said:
    "I think engineering is such a wonderful way to contribute to society. We’ve witnessed hundreds of students and fellows who have trained in our lab get great jobs at universities where they train future engineers or get jobs in industry where they use their engineering training to improve the world. I think the people who come to our lab do so, because they share the same mission I do - which is to create engineering principles that can make the world a better place."
    Professor Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President, Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, said:
    "Challenging perceptions that limit new entrants into engineering studies or the profession has long been an imperative for engineers and it is encouraging to see responses in the first QEPrize Create the Future Report that indicate a positive understanding of engineering and its potential."
    Professor Reinhard Huettl, President of Acatech (National Academy of Science and Engineering), Germany, said:
    "Young people in Germany and worldwide expect that engineering will focus on solving the world’s problems. They are increasingly interested in contributing to society."
    Professor Frances Arnold, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, Caltech, said:
    "Sustainable energy technology is the basis of a sustainable society. Meeting growing needs and expectations will require real engineering creativity."
    Professor John Hennessy, President, Stanford University, USA, said:
    "The use of information technology for education has recently received great attention, and it is increasingly clear that online education can play a transformative role particularly in the developing world where educational institutions cannot meet the demand."
    Paul Westbury CBE FREng, Group Technical Director, Laing O’Rourke, UK, said:
    "To attract and retain the best and most diverse global talent, our profession must stand on its own two feet and continue to ignite imagination, showcase innovation, and shout about the positive impact that engineering has, and must have, on the world around us."
    Narayana Murthy, Founder, Infosys, India, said:
    "Globalisation is changing things. While much of the developed world continues to experience moderate interest in engineering careers, emerging economies are providing a new breeding ground for engineers."
    Professor Viola Vogel, Head of the Laboratory of Applied Mechanobiology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, said:
    "Emerging economies (India, Turkey, China, and Brazil) have narrower gender gaps regarding the overall interest in engineering than the leading economies of the world."
    Professor Lynn Gladden CBE FREng, Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK, said:
    "There is a huge opportunity to re-energise the current generation of young people in our schools, so that they see and relate to the excitement and opportunities which a career in engineering can bring."
    Professor Hiroshi Komiyama, President, Engineering Academy, Japan, said:
    "In Japan, young generations recognize the value of engineering in contributing to society. This recognition is important in our effort to promote the understanding of engineering widely, and it is seen as a hope for the future development of human resources."
    Professor Sir Christopher Snowden FREng FRS, Vice-Chancellor, University of Southampton, UK, said:
    "The UK could take steps to improving its ranking in the index by investing further in engineering education and training and creating visible opportunities for engineering careers. This would certainly require increasing the awareness of engineering and careers in schools and colleges and continuing to win the support of business and industry to promote engineering."
    Dr Dan Mote, President, National Academy of Engineering, USA, said:
    "The Create the Future Report shows how important it is to highlight the tremendous opportunities existing in engineering careers to attract the next generation."