Over 100 of the UK’s leading industrialists, academics and commentators gathered in London this week (7 February) to discuss how engineering can contribute more to economic growth. The Royal Academy of Engineering arranged the event, with the support of BAE Systems, to gather opinion and share tangible examples of how exceptional engineering can drive a sustained recovery in UK plc.

Opening the discussion, Academy President Sir John Parker FREng said: “Right at this moment in time, government has a critical leadership role that needs to be more than just cutting overheads, important as that is. To achieve our economic ambitions, we will need to have a clearer ‘industrial strategy’ - a framework to guide and enable UK plc.

“Politicians and commentators have become more comfortable over the years with using the term UK plc - but equally uncomfortable about being accused of ‘picking winners’. But, if you are running a plc, you do have to pick winning strategies, select winning people and search for winning products all of the time.”

Shadow Innovation and Science Minister Chi Onwurah MP emphasised the need for a more productive and broader based economy able to deliver for everyone. “The human race has always progressed by innovation,” she said, “from sharpened stones to mobile phones. To keep the UK competitive globally we must use the right levers tosupport innovative and productive businesses.”

Nigel Whitehead FREng agreed that the UK has a culture of innovation. “The UK has to play to its strengths in motor-racing, defence, the automotive sector, pharmaceuticals and software,” he said. “We need a combined economic and industrial strategy and a clear vision for what we need to invest in as a nation to stimulate economic growth. The most important investment we can make is in skills.”

Other speakers included Jonathan Flint CBE FREng, Managing Director of Oxford Instruments, Graham Hann, Partner Intellectual Property at Taylor Wessing, Bob Joyce, Director of Engineering at Jaguar LandRover and Professor Julia King CBE FREng, Vice Chancellor of Aston University.

Notes for editors

  1. Engineering: gearing for growth was held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology on 7 February 2012. Film footage from the event is available:
  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; email: Jane Sutton