Warren East CBE FREng, Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce, has explained how creative engineers can solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, but called on the profession to ensure those engineering solutions make “economic sense”. Delivering the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2017 View from the top lecture, he referred to engineering as “the natural engine of our economy” and explained to the audience how spotting this as a teenager drove his fascination with engineering as he “wanted to be part of it”.

Mr East, who joined Rolls-Royce as CEO in July 2015 having previously served as CEO of ARM Holdings Plc and ARM Ltd, shared the principles he learnt throughout his career. He explained that successful engineering is reliant on building on solid foundations, which can take time to develop, and that engineers should “walk quickly, don’t run”. He also stressed that, in engineering, one company, team or person can’t do it all alone, it is “all about partnership”.

Reflecting on UK engineering, Mr East rejected views that manufacturing is “decaying”, describing it as an industry with “lots of potential” and engineering as something that the UK is “really rather good” at. He called on the profession to embrace new technology and automation. Citing historic cynicism about ISDN, he also recommended that engineers put aside any cynicism about the Internet of Things (IoT), predicting that “its day will come”.

Engineers, Mr East told the audience, need to “get creative” to address the major challenges facing the world today: an expanding and ageing population undergoing increased urbanisation, all of which impacts supply of food and water and creates increased demand for energy. The key to success is improving efficiency, he said. Citing vast improvements in aircraft fuel burn in recent years, Mr East highlighted how by being creative “engineers have made the impossible possible”.

In concluding his lecture Mr East highlighted the importance of business-academic collaboration in driving future innovation. This will provide the environment for engineers to expand their creativity and ensure their projects are economically viable, maximising product efficiency. Mr East called this a “once in a generation” opportunity to take a slice of the global advanced manufacturing market as the upcoming digital transformation becomes a reality.

Notes for editors

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information please contact:

Tim Dowling at the Royal Academy of Engineering

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