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16 June 2010
The Institution of Engineering and Technology outlines how the government can support engineering in the UK.
Engineering and manufacturing are vital to the UK's future. They will play a key role in growing the economy, which in turn will be important for reducing the public deficit. In addition engineering is vital for meeting a range of national challenges, including mitigating climate change and addressing the problems associated with an ageing population.
So what can government do to support engineering in the UK? Firstly, engineering skill shortages must be addressed, both at graduate and technician levels. Government must ensure the continuation of upwards trends in the number of young people studying engineering and its feeder subjects, which include science, maths and design and technology.
Secondly, investment in engineering research must be retained. The UK has successfully developed a strong research base, second only to the United States by most measures. Our strong position will be damaged if we do not continue to invest in the Research Councils and engineering departments at universities.
Thirdly, we must improve on our record at translating the research taking place in universities and elsewhere into new products and services. The UK's record at translating research into economic benefit has for many decades been poor.
Increasing the UK's translational capability will not necessarily require substantial new investment by government, but it will require government to start spending its money more astutely.
Government spends £220bn a year on goods and services procured from the private sector, but tends to buy existing, "off the shelf" products rather than giving innovative technological firms the opportunity to provide something new and different. If the government purchased more from innovative manufacturers, those companies would have a customer base on which to expand.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology is one of the world's leading professional societies for the engineering and technology community, with around 120,000 members in the UK and more than 150,000 members worldwide. We provide the government with advice on all policy issues which have an engineering dimension.