Arup Senior Engineer John Collins went to Parliament to question the Government Chief Scientific Advisor on tackling mismatches in timescales between political and science and engineering cycles.

Mr Collins, 31, was chosen to represent the Royal Academy of Engineering at this year’s Voice of the Future, which took place at Portcullis House in Westminster.

The annual event, held on 15 March, saw attendees from school students through to postdoctoral researchers pitch their questions to top politicians and policymakers.

This year’s questions covered topics ranging from equality initiatives in science and the funding gap between the north and the south to the science policies of the Trump administration and the effects of Brexit on British science.

Mr Collins pitched his question asking what can be done to make science and engineering timescales compatible with political and funding cycles to Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor.

Speaking after the event, Mr Collins said:

“It was a real privilege to be a part of this unique event. It left me with plenty to think about regarding how politicians make decisions and what we can do to hold them to account. One of the things I was really impressed to hear was that the MPs put high value on the work we do to support our learned institutions such as the Royal Academy of Engineering (which they really do listen to) and promoting STEM in schools.”

The afternoon saw more than 60 representatives across four sessions pitch their questions to Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy Chi Onwurah MP and the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee.

The event was held in the Boothroyd Room, a room which has previously seen prime ministers as well as eminent researchers and experts deliver evidence to politicians and policymakers. This time the tables were turned, with the committee seats occupied by young people and politicians in the witness seats, ready to answer their questions.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, Deputy Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“At a time when the government’s industrial strategy green paper has placed a renewed emphasis on research and development, Voice of the Future provides a useful opportunity for early career engineers and scientists to see that the importance of their work is recognised by policymakers, as well as giving them a valuable insight into political dialogue.”

Mr Collins was recognised as one of five Royal Academy of Engineering Engineers Trust Young Engineers of the Year in 2016.

Notes for editors

  1. Voice of the Future is an annual event organised by the Royal Society of Biology. Voice of the Future 2017 included up to six representatives from the following organisations: Biochemical Society, British Ecological Society, British Pharmacological Society, Campaign for Science & Engineering, Council for the Mathematical Sciences, Institution of Chemical Engineers, Institute of Physics, Open University, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Astronomical Society, Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Society of Edinburgh, RSE Young Academy of Scotland, SCI, Society for Applied Microbiology, Society for Experimental Biology, The Geological Society, The Nutrition Society, The Royal Society, The Physiological Society, Wallington High School for Girls and Queens Park Community School Academy Trust.
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information, please contact:

Tim Dowling at the Royal Academy of Engineering

T: 020 7766 0671
E: Tim Dowling