Royal Academy of Engineering President Sir John Parker FREng will return to his native Belfast this week to speak about the challenge of rebalancing the UK’s economy towards engineering and innovation. In a prestige lecture to the Northern Ireland group of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), he will emphasise the importance of economic growth in improving quality of life, strengthening social cohesion and creating the education and training that give young people real opportunity.

In his lecture on 2 February 2012, Engineering Leadership for Innovation and Growth, Sir John will look at the challenges of remaining competitive on a global scale in the face of the increasing dominance and innovative capacity of the new ‘powerhouse’ nations like China. He will call for the country to return to its roots and do what it does best – focus on engineering innovation.

He will spell out the need for an industrial strategy to set the course for UK plc, create stable policy in the long term and encourage and incentivise investment. Government needs to help create a business investment-friendly environment where companies of all sizes can have the confidence and incentives to invest to create world leading products and services.

Sir John will call for a renewed focus on increasing the nation’s technocratic horsepower in schools and universities to enable the development of world-leading engineered services and products. He will also look at the need for new talent to build great companies. “No organisation or company will be great without the best people,” he says, “and especially those who are qualified and equipped as world class creative engineers and those who have entrepreneurial business acumen.”

David Macartney Chair of the IET Northern Ireland Network, says: “Expectations of the future and the prospects for economic health are of pressing concern, the world over. Establishing a sustainable competitive strategy to turn the vision for Northern Ireland into reality requires engineers to be at the heart of the decision making as engineers are, first and foremost, problem solvers and therefore well placed to guide those who make policy decisions which will facilitate engineering and technology playing a significant role in the creation of wealth and economic growth in Northern Ireland.”

Notes for editors

  1. Sir John Parker is President of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2011 to 2014).

    He is Chairman of Anglo American plc, Vice Chairman of DP World (Dubai) (2006), Non-Executive Director of Carnival Corporation (2003) and EADS (Airbus) (2007).

    He was Chairman of National Grid plc (October 2002 to December 2011) and Chair of the Court of the Bank of England (2004 to 2009), Joint Chairman of Mondi plc (2007 to 2009), Chair of the BVT Joint Venture (2008), a Member of the Prime Minister's Business Council for Britain (2007 to 2010) and Chancellor of the University of Southampton (August 2006 to August 2011).

    Sir John was born into a farming family in County Down (Northern Ireland). He studied Naval Architecture and Mechanical Engineering at the College of Technology and Queen's University, Belfast and joined the ship design team at Harland and Wolff in 1964. After extensive ship design and research experience, he held a number of senior management positions in technical, production and ship sales.

    He was appointed Managing Director of Austin and Pickersgill (Shipbuilders) Sunderland in 1974. Following nationalisation of the shipbuilding industry, he was appointed to the Board of the British Shipbuilders Corporation in 1978, later becoming Deputy Chief Executive. He returned to Harland and Wolff (1983 to 93) as Chairman and Chief Executive to lead a turn-around and transfer from public to private sector.

    Sir John joined Babcock International plc as CEO in 1993 and Chairman and CEO (1994 to 2000) during a period of significant group turn-around and transformation.

    In 1997, he became a Non-executive Director of British Gas which led to his becoming Chairman of the Lattice Group on its demerger from BG Group in 2000. Lattice merged with National Grid in 2002, with Sir John becoming Chairman of the combined company, National Grid Transco, bringing UK Gas and the Electricity Grid together.
  2. The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers with over 150,000 members in 127 countries. The IET is a professional home for life for its members as well as a source of essential engineering intelligence. For more information, visit
  3. 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

or Robert Beahan at the Institution of Engineering and Technology
tel. 01438 767336; email: Robert Beahan