Article - Issue 29, December 2006

The Academy’s new grants programme, Ingenious; National Science and Engineering Week 2007; engineering hope for back pain sufferers; the Lloyd’s Register European Engineering Experience

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Engaging Citizens; Engaging Engineers


The Royal Academy of Engineering has launched a new grants programme, entitled Ingenious – engaging citizens; engaging engineers. The aim is to give engineers the opportunity to learn more about engaging with the public and to raise debate on engineering and its impact on society.

In previous years,‘public understanding’ ruled supreme, with a top-down emphasis on the promotion of science and engineering to (what was assumed to be) a passive and accepting public. However, exposure to a particular topic or issue does not necessarily lead to acceptance and trust. Consequently ‘public understanding’ has since evolved to the more democratic ‘public engagement’ model, where open and early debate is encouraged and citizens’ voices are valued and listened to. For example, the Academy and the Royal Society jointly managed a programme of public engagement on nanotechnologies two years ago which helped to defuse some of the more sensational speculation and has informed public debate.

Over the years, there has been much discussion on the importance of engaging society with key issues in science and engineering. It is equally important that the people at the cutting edge of technology, namely the engineers themselves, engage with the public. However, taking the public stage without support or experience can be a daunting endeavour.

The purpose of Ingenious is to fund projects that provide engineers with experiences in a wide variety of public engagement activities. This could be speaking at a debate event, taking part in a documentary, assisting in the development of a science centre exhibition, completing a communication skills workshop or media training course. Fortunately, there are many potential partners for engineers to work with that are dedicated to public engagement, such as science centres, museums, thinktanks and other science/engineering communications organisations.

A society engaged with engineering, understanding its nature, value and impact, able to debate and be listened to on issues of concern, is a society that will be open to technological innovation and change. This is certainly a long-term vision and Ingenious is only the beginning. Ingenious is supported by the Office of Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry.

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National Science And Engineering Week 2007

The next National Science and Engineering Week (formerly National Science Week) will take place on 9 –18 March 2007. Now in its 14th year, engineering has been brought back into the title to demonstrate the closeness between the two subjects and ensure engineering is given suitable prominence. Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK take part in National Science and Engineering Week activities every year. The event aims to celebrate science and its importance in our lives, providing an opportunity for people of all ages across the UK to take part in science, engineering and technology activities.

National Science and Engineering Week has been coordinated by the BA since it began in 1994. It is endorsed and supported by the Government through the Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of Science and Innovation. During the week, events are organised throughout the UK by a wide range of organisations and individuals including hospitals, schools, industry and museums. One event in London will reveal more about medical treatments that have courted controversy while another, in Beckenham, will see Dr Charles Littleton discuss Robert Boyle – regarded by many as the first modern chemist – and the scientific revolution.

National Science and Engineering Week is aimed at everyone from children and adults to decision makers and investors and aims to:

  • engage and inspire people of all ages with science and technology and their implications

  • promote discussion and understanding of what science, engineering and technology can and cannot achieve

  • promote knowledge of the scientific method, ie how scientists go about their work and reach their conclusions

  • promote science, engineering and technology studies beyond the age of 16 and science, engineering and technology as career options.

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Engineering Hope For Back Pain Sufferers

Rachael Ambury, a University of Manchester engineering student, scooped the Morgan Crucible prize for Best Materials Student in the annual Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) Student of the Year Awards. Rachael’s final year project, which focused on tissue engineering and examined how special braces or ‘scaffolds' could be used to treat slipped discs and other back problems, received glowing praise from the panel of judges.

Employing an engineering process known as electro spinning, Rachael produced a series of ‘bioresorbable' polymer scaffolds, which can be surgically implanted to hold tissue together, helping cells to repair and re-grow. Using these bioresorbable scaffolds, which dissolve naturally over time, reduces the cost of treatment and allows the patient to recover more quickly.

Rachael collected her prize at a black-tie ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice. In awarding Rachael the accolade, judges from the Institute of Materials,Minerals and Mining said, "Rachael presented a project containing high quality technical research which is highly relevant and valuable to current medical practices. We feel Rachael will make a great ambassador for materials science and will influence all whom she meets.”

Experiencing Croatia

Young Engineers clubs, run in primary and secondary schools, aim to introduce young people to the diverse world of engineering. Young Engineers run a wide variety of national competitions and this year some 1,300 clubs took part in the annual Club of the Year competition. St Swithun’s all-girls school in Winchester took the prize for the second year running, and were awarded a cash prize, a trophy and the Lloyd’s Register European Engineering Experience. Lloyd’s Register, the independent risk management organisation, is the principal and founding sponsor of Young Engineers clubs in the UK.

The inspiring Lloyd’s Register European Engineering Experience is a VIP study tour of engineering projects in a European city, which takes place across the October half term. In recent years the tour has visited France, Italy, Denmark, Finland,Holland, Spain, Germany and Greece. This year, for the first time, the destination was Croatia. The tour party from St Swithun’s visited a number of exciting projects including a leading Croatian shipyard.

For more information visit

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