The Academy's Engineering Policy Committee is currently focusing on the following priority areas:

Digital economy
Energy, climate change and the environment
Engineering technologies
Manufacturing and industry
Medical technologies
Engineering in society

Digital economy


On 19 June 2014, the Academy hosted a stakeholder meeting on the potential economic impact of 5G, the opportunities and challenges ahead. It will look at the wider potential applications of 5G across a range of infrastructures and industries. 

'Big data'

In 2014, the Academy is undertaking a study on the national capability and opportunity in machine data, part of its broader look at 'big data' and engineers' relationship with it. The aim is to better understand how engineering companies generate, instrument and analyse machine data and how it helps them improve productivity and produce economic value. 

Smart buildings

The Academy produced a report of a roundtable discussion looking at the design, creation and use of smart buildings. The roundtable brought together architects, engineers and ICT experts to consider ways to reduce energy use, enable supported living and provide valuable services.

Smart buildings: people and performance (1.33 MB)

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Energy, climate change and the environment

A critical time for UK energy policy

This study, the latest undertaken at the request of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, considers the future of the energy system of the UK and how it can deliver against the so-called energy ‘trilemma’ — the need for a system that is secure and affordable as well as low carbon. The main conclusion is that there remain serious risks in the delivery of the optimal energy system for the UK. Government is advised, as a matter of urgency to:

  • Undertake local or regional whole-system, large-scale pilot projects to establish real-world examples of how the future system will work.

  • Drive forward new capacity in nuclear, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind.

  • Develop policies to accelerate demand reduction.

  • Clarify and stabilise market mechanisms and incentives.

A critical time for UK energy policy (504.06 KB)

Counting the cost

Following on from the 2013 report on the GB electricity capacity margin, the Academy was invited by the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST) to undertake research into the economic and social costs and impacts that would result from shortfalls in electricity supply, within specific sectors and across the UK economy as a whole. The report, Counting the cost, assesses the available evidence base on the potential costs of electricity shortfalls. This is important in order to help policymakers understand the cost/benefit trade-off from investing in greater levels of capacity or resilience to disruption.

Counting the cost (581.35 KB)

Wind energy

With wind energy set to play an expanding role in the UK’s energy system, the Academy has carried out a study on the implications of large-scale deployment of wind energy on the UK electricity system. The report, published in 2014, concentrated mainly on the engineering implications of wind energy from design, operation and integration into the national grid system. In addition to the engineering issues, costs and carbon emissions are also considered as the UK tries to move towards solving the ‘trilemma’ of secure, affordable and low-carbon energy. The study considered a medium timeframe up to 2030.

Wind Energy: implications of large-scale deployment on the GB electricity system (2.72 MB)

Made for the future

We all carry our own carbon footprint: from our car journeys to heating our homes, everyday life has an impact on energy and material resources. While individuals have responsibility for minimising our use of energy and resources, engineers have a significant role in designing domestic technologies to achieve greater efficiency and less waste. This study, which was published in 2013,  looked at the whole lifecycle of domestic technologies, examining the role of engineering innovation in each step.

Made for the future: challenges in creating a sustainable domestic supply chain (1.05 MB)

GB electricity capacity margin

In 2013, a study was undertaken at the request of the Prime Minister's Council for Science and Technology (CST) to explore whether the capacity margin of the GB electricity system could reach unacceptably low levels within this decade.

GB electricity capacity margin: A report by the Royal Academy of Engineering for the Council for Science and Technolog (399.24 KB)

Future ship powering options

A study, published in 2013, explored current and potential future marine propulsion systems, measuring them against the twin but related objectives of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. The report followed a working party of more than 20 eminent engineering experts, led by Professor John Carlton FREng, Professor of Marine Engineering at City University London. Options investigated included greater use of LNG (liquefied natural gas) in current power units, battery and alternative fuel technologies, and nuclear-powered ships. No single or simple answer was identified that will meet every need or that can be applied to every type of vessel. Instead, further work is needed to adapt current technologies from the maritime industries and elsewhere to broader application in different types of ship and to research and develop innovative technologies specifically for maritime propulsion.

Future ship powering options: Exploring alternative methods of ship propulsion (5.79 MB)

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles hold the promise, if widely adopted, of drastically reducing carbon emissions from surface transport and could, therefore, form a major plank in the UK’s efforts to meet the binding emissions reduction targets enshrined in the 2008 Climate Change Act. This report, published in 2010, considers the implications of electric vehicles becoming mainstream by 2050.

Electric vehicles: charged with potential (1.87 MB)

Heat: degrees of comfort

A study, published in 2012, considered the future of provision and use of heat in the UK economy out to 2050. If the UK is to meet legally binding carbon emissions targets in the future, the way we both use and produce heat will have to change radically in the next 40 years - but what technologies will become dominant and what will be the impact on the average UK householder?

Heat: degrees of comfort (1.13 MB)

Decommissoning in the North Sea

A workshop was held in  to discuss the decommissioning of oil and gas platforms in the North Sea.

Decommissioning in the North Sea (1.21 MB)

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Engineering technologies

'Innovation in...' events

The Academy runs a series of events about the latest developments in specific sectors that will affect society in the next five to ten years. Events in the series so far have included:

Innovation in autonomous systems (1.52 MB)

Innovation in aerospace (2.07 MB)

Innovation in energy (1.47 MB)

Innovation in materials (1.34 MB)

Innovation in medical technologies (1.05 MB)

Innovation in automotive (946.54 KB)

Innovation in technology-based companies (1.35 MB)

Innovation in construction

Space weather: impacts on engineered systems, infrastructure and society 

Extreme space weather events have recently been identified as an important risk to the UK’s national infrastructure and in 2011 they were, for the first time, included as part of the National Risk Assessment (NRA). In 2013, the Academy explored the engineering and societal impacts of extreme space weather. 

Space Weather full report (2.65 MB)

Space Weather summary report (1.43 MB)

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In 2014, the Academy is undertaking a study on infrastructure interdependencies in cities that will include designing cities as systems and retrofitting existing infrastructures. A report is expected to be published in summer 2015. 

Transport congestion

The Academy's Transport Community of Practice, a range of leading transport engineers from industry and academia, assessed the projected growth in congestion to the period 2030 and the extent to which it can be reduced by the present range of engineered technologies and policy measures. The report is expected to be published in summer 2015. 

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Manufacturing and industry

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing

This roundtable workshop, held in 2013, explored the potential benefits of additive manufacturing processes and how they might affect the UK economy.

Additive manufacturing: opportunities and constraints (1.25 MB)

Industrial systems

The Academy carried out a study into the nature of modern industrial systems, and the place and value of manufacturing in the complex system of product design, manufacture, delivery and maintenance. A report was published in April 2012.

Industrial systems: capturing value through manufacturing (800.10 KB)

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Medical technologies

Royal Academy of Engineering Panel for Biomedical Engineering

Information about an established series of activities and reports promoting and developing biomedical engineering can be is available on the Panel for Biomedical Engineering pages.

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Engineering in society

Professional engineering governance

A briefing paper, published in 2012, addressing the role engineers play in making strategic high-level decisions in a wide range of organisations from private companies, both big and small, and government agencies. Based on responses from a number of Fellows of the Academy the report discusses why engineering advice is important, the risks associated with inadequate engineering advice and how such advice can be sourced and used.

Professional engineering governance: the critical need for quality engineering advice in the boardroom (2.50 MB)

UK procurement

This project explored best practice in procurement across government and industry, and looks at how government procurement can stimulate innovation and growth. Through a series of workshops bringing together key figures in government and engineering practice, the key issues in improving procurement are explored – from managing risk to changing behaviour.The project report was published in 2014.

Public projects and procurement in the UK: sharing experience and changing practice (330.69 KB)

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