Fracking, engineering design and water supply will be under the spotlight this Saturday as the Royal Academy of Engineering takes part in the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican Centre in London.

The Battle of Ideas is an annual festival of debate and discussion, organised by the Institute of Ideas. The festival, now in its eighth year, will take place on the weekend of 20 and 21 October.

This year the Academy is taking part in three events.

In Gas galore? Fracking and the future of energy, geo-environmental engineering expert Professor Hywel Thomas FREng of the University of Cardiff joins Stephen Bull, Vice President of Statoil, and Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent at the Guardian to discuss the implications of opening up new gas reserves through hydraulic fracturing technologies. Professor Thomas was part of the working group for a recent joint Academy and Royal Society report on shale gas extraction.

A second discussion features Dr Natasha McCarthy, Head of Policy at the Academy, along with experts in materials, manufacturing and software and product design. Dr McCarthy will be discussing how engineering and design can work together to create the materials and products of our future in Engineering design or design engineering?

Professor Chris Binnie FREng joins the battle for a final Academy event, Water, water, everywhere: not allowed to use it. Water expert Professor Binnie will be debating whether we should consider water to be a commodity or a human right with fellow panellists.

Dr Natasha McCarthy says: “The Battle of Ideas is a unique forum to discuss ideas that are at once blue skies and philosophical yet critical to current issues and needs. The session I am involved in will address the tension between engineers’ duty to meet current social and political demands, and the potential for engineering to deliver disruptive innovations that could change our lives in unforeseen ways. I look forward to debating the role of engineering with such an interesting panel of engineering thinkers.”

Saturday 20 October 2012
Barbican Centre, London, Level 3 Garden Room

12.15 – 13.15
Gas galore? Fracking and the future of energy
The discovery of enormous reserves of readily exploitable shale gas and other 'unconventional' sources of energy have transformed previously pessimistic discussions around an 'energy crunch'. Is the end of an energy crisis really in sight, or do the problems go much further than supply? Speakers include Professor Hywel Thomas FREng.

13.30 – 15.00
Engineering design or design engineering?
Engineering is cool again – not old-fashioned and dirty, but novel and creative. The design of modern factories and production processes allow rapid repurposing of machinery to such a degree that we don’t have to take a one-size-fits-all product. Are we seeing engineering push the boundaries of possibility for humanity or just sketching castles in the air? Speakers include Dr Natasha McCarthy, head of policy at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

15.30 – 17.00
Water, water, everywhere: not allowed to use it
Why, in 21st century Britain is something so plentiful as water rationed? Is it simply because we are too short of money? Or maybe water itself is too cheap? Should we accept that we should tighten our taps or might paying a bit more for water be worth the liberation from the moralisation of the stuff of life? Speakers include Professor Chris Binnie FREng.

Notes for editors

  1. 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

For more information please contact: Manisha Lalloo at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0683; email: Manisha Lalloo