Sir John Parker GBE FREng, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, joined forces this week with the Presidents of the three other UK national academies – the Royal Society, Academy of Medical Sciences and British Academy – to press home to government the importance of investing in research and the science and engineering skills base to support economic regeneration.

At a meeting this morning with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne, the four academy Presidents and a number of senior industrialists and academics discussed these matters in advance of the impending spending review.

The meeting followed a media briefing yesterday at the Science Media Centre, where the four presidents and representatives of the Association of Medical Research Charities, the Science Museum and the Campaign for Science and Engineering presented the case for public investment in research.

At the briefing, Sir John described how engineering research can support innovation from across the science disciplines. He spoke of how engineering drives growth, emphasising the Academy’s role in bringing together industry and academic research and supporting entrepreneurship through the newly established Enterprise Hub.

Speaking at the Science Media Centre, Sir John said:

“I believe our academies share a responsibility to oversee, influence and ensure that there is systematic support for the full cycle of research and development from scientific discovery, through application research and development, industrialisation and commercialisation. Such a cycle is the bedrock of a creative modern economy and it results in new products and services, new industries and new jobs.”

Sir John spoke of the need to leverage research strengths to support key technologies on their journey from the lab to the marketplace. This would involve creating more and better links between universities and companies, as well as encouraging and nurturing enterprises that are focused on creating wealth from the fruits of research.

He described how he was encouraged to find faculties of engineering seeing themselves as an integral part of the innovation ecosystem that drives economic prosperity through business growth. The Academy’s new Enterprise Hub aimed to give a helping hand to promising technology entrepreneurs in not just ‘getting going’ and but ‘getting growing’. Some 70 of the Academy’s Fellows with a track record in entrepreneurship were supporting this effort.

He called for clear signals from government to society and our young people that it is focused on delivering growth driven by research, innovation and creative industrial activity. Sir John commended government for embracing the development of a modern industrial strategy and pressed for a long-term strategy for research and innovation to underpin the strategy.

In his final point Sir John said talked about the importance to our economy of a highly skilled workforce: “The research base is a crucial source of talent but the issue is wider than this. The Academy's analysis shows we need around 1.25 million science, engineering and technology professionals and technicians by 2020, including a high proportion of professional engineers, to support the UK's economic recovery. And this is merely to maintain the industry on an even keel, rather than to support strong growth. This is a major issue for the UK and certainly one that I and my colleagues in industry feel passionately about.

"There are encouraging signs that the UK is on the right research and product development trajectory - it is clear that we need to move further and faster, our international competitors are not standing still."

Notes for editors

  1. The four national academies published a statement on 22 April 2013 –  Fuelling Prosperity (420.16 KB) – supporting continued investment in research.
  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