Study Shows Link Between Engineering and Economic Development


A new global study carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has found that there is a strong positive correlation between engineering strength and a country’s economic development.

The report, Engineering and economic growth: a global view, which was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering, analysed engineering across the globe, looking at a range of sources: workforce, output, prospective recruits, quality of research, and where its impact is most needed.

Findings were used to compile the first ever ‘Engineering Index’, which ranks 99 countries by their engineering strength. Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands top the list, scoring well because of high employment in engineering, high average engineering wages, and good quality engineering infrastructure.

The data also showed that developing economies, including Myanmar, Tunisia and Honduras, lead the world in gender parity in engineering, with the highest proportion of female engineering graduates:65%, 42% and 41% respectively. This compares to only 22% in the UK (with just over 15,800 female graduates in engineering per year) and Australia and 21% in the Netherlands.

The UK ranks 14th in the Engineering Index, partly because of the high annual salary commanded by UK engineers. The UK also outperforms almost all other nations with the quality of its educational institutions, with nine British university engineering departments making the Times Higher Education World University Rankings top 100 list. Only the US beats the UK in this field, with 31 engineering departments in the top 100, of which four are in the top five.

However, the UK’s percentage of female engineers is far lower than other developed countries; of the 34 European countries considered in the analysis, the UK only ranks 22nd in gender parity.

14th rankRanked 14th in the Engineering Index, the UK’s educational institutions outperform those from almost all the other nations © BAE Systems

The size of the engineering workforce in the UK also compares less well to other countries, with latest data indicating that engineers only represent 0.7% of the UK population. This is less than half that of Finland (ninth on the Index), where engineers make up 1.7%. In the UK, 53% of all engineering employers are currently seeking new recruits with engineering and technology skills, with the highest demand in the construction (67% of employers), electronics (61%) and aerospace (60%) sectors.

Data from the World Bank shows that UK gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was £27,100 in 2013. If the UK ranked first in the Engineering Index, UK GDP per capita would have increased by 10% to £29,900.

The report’s findings forecast that India and Vietnam will be future engineering hotspots that will have great need for, and growth in, engineering.

The study was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering to explore the relationship between engineering and global economic development and to provide a worldwide comparison of potential growth in and need for engineering. It was published to coincide with the Engineering a Better World conference, hosted by the Academy in September as part of its membership of the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS).

The full report can be read at


Isobar deviceWilliam Broadway’s ISOBAR device is able to keep vaccines chilled for long periods without reducing their potency

Two promising young engineers have been awarded prizes for entrepreneurial innovations that could make a difference to people’s lives.

William Broadway, an industrial technology and design graduate from Loughborough University, won the James Dyson UK award for innovation in September for his portable long-term cooling system for vaccines. His ISOBAR device works by using a mix of ammonia and water that is heated in a low-pressure vessel. The ammonia vaporises and is trapped in an upper chamber by a valve until the device is flipped over, causing the water and ammonia to recombine and result in a cooling effect.

Most vaccine coolers freeze the vaccine, which causes it to lose potency, but ISOBAR is specifically designed to maintain stable temperature control between 2°C and 8°C for up to six days inside an insulated backpack.

Launchpad competition winnerLaunchpad Competition winner Michael Tougher (right) receives the JC Gammon Award from Andrew Gammon

William was given £2,000 to develop his idea and entered into the running for the international James Dyson Award, which will give the winning entry £30,000 to develop their idea.

Later in September, the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub hosted the final of its Launchpad Competition, which is aimed at promising young technology entrepreneurs in the UK, aged 16 to 25.

The winner of the competition was 24-year-old Michael Tougher, who has invented a ‘Raspberry Pi for music’ that allows children to create music without traditional instruments. He received the JC Gammon Award, a £15,000 prize, plus tailored support including mentoring from Academy Fellows.

Michael’s innovative technology allows people to create music using separate stackable buttons on a mat. Each button acts as a note and can be combined into entire chords. The buttons can be moved around to play a different key, volume or even musical instrument, enabling people of all ages and abilities to create music.

More information about the Launchpad Competition and Enterprise Hub can be found at


The biggest experiment to measure air quality in London has been launched. Schools and community groups across the city have been given pollution monitoring tags and the data from these will help to create a map that charts the parts of the capital with the dirtiest and cleanest air.

CleanSpace Tags, manufactured by Drayson Technologies, are the size of a smartphone and monitor carbon monoxide. The data is sent to a mobile app to record local air pollution levels and create a map showing ‘hotspots’ where the air is at its most polluted and cleanest. As the user moves, the app summarises the pollution in the local area as ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’.

Central LondonCentral London is one of the most polluted places in the UK and often fails to comply with limits set by the EU

The tags’ tiny battery uses energy that is wasted in wireless transmissions, such as Wi-Fi and radio, using Freevolt technology.

Lord Drayson PC FREng, Chairman and CEO of Drayson Technologies, said: “As more people, groups and organisations use CleanSpace Tags, they will be crowdsourcing data that is vital to individuals, businesses and policymakers.”

The experiment is being supported by the British Lung Foundation and Greenpeace.

To find out more about the Map London initiative, please visit


A report published by the Government Office for Science has highlighted how the UK could be the global leader in the application of quantum technologies (QT).

Launched in November, the report, The quantum age: technological opportunities (one of a series of Blackett Reviews), states that while the UK is among world leaders in quantum research, it could develop a lead in the application of technology and develop a UK QT industry, building on the progress made by the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP). It also argues that innovation centres should be established to bring together academics and industrial partners to commercialise the technologies.

Report front cover

The report was launched at the second Quantum Technologies Showcase, held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London. As a forum to demonstrate technologies developed through the NQTP’s investments, the showcase highlighted the programme’s links with industry and demonstrated QT-based components already coming from the programme.

The winners of the latest round of funding from the UK Quantum Technologies Innovation Fund, a joint investment between Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, were also announced. The funded projects will link research to industry to translate QT into new products and services.

Professor Sir Mark Walport FRS, Government Chief Scientific Adviser who was instrumental in the development of the report, said: “The UK is playing a leading role in the research and development of QT. Quantum timekeeping, imaging, sensing, communications and computing have the potential to generate a large array of valuable new products and services.

“We must ensure we continue to commercialise the outputs from our excellent research base. We have an opportunity to develop a worldclass industry, supported by a skilled workforce and stimulated by global demand.”

To read the Blackett Review in full, please visit


Professor Paul Shore FREngProfessor Paul Shore FREng speaks at the launch of NPL Instruments

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Measurement Institute, has launched NPL Instruments, a commercial service of the organisation that will develop instruments, standards and methodologies for industry to provide traceable measurements across a broad range of disciplines.

The service is already working with organisations such as NASA, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the European Space Agency. For example, for the European Space Agency, NPL has developed a unique vibration test facility that underpins the performance of satellite components for European space missions. Defra has made use of new environmental monitoring techniques from NPL that track greenhouse gas emissions in 3D over large areas, allowing it to manage sites such as landfills much more effectively.

The instruments supplied will range from bespoke systems designed to meet specific measurement requirements to standard artefacts and complete metrology systems based on those operated at NPL.

To support the continued growth of this relationship with industry, NPL Instruments will be putting £1.5 million towards new machining centres and state-of-the-art laboratories, as well as the recruitment of new engineering specialists and advanced engineering apprentices. The division will be led by Professor Paul Shore FREng.

To find out more, go to


The fourth Tomorrow’s Engineers Week took place between 7 and 11 November 2016. The annual event aims to change perceptions of engineering among young people, their parents and teachers to inspire future engineers.

A number of schools and institutions organised their own events to celebrate the week, and Tomorrow’s Engineers partnered with a number of well-known organisations and businesses, such as Madame Tussauds, the National Space Centre and the Coca-Cola London Eye, to demonstrate to young people how engineering plays a part in their daily operations.

Engineering studentsStudents at Engineering Extravaganza with their air-powered version of the Bloodhound © University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Centre with Boeing

One of the highlights of the week was the Engineering Extravaganza event at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing. Organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Institution of Civil Engineers, and Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the event gave young people the opportunity to gain hands-on experience of different engineering disciplines, such as engineering their own small-scale vacuum tube trains, creating an air-powered version of the Bloodhound car, and using their problem-solving skills to design and model a high-rise structure in Lego.

Paul Jackson, Chief Executive at EngineeringUK, said: “Companies, organisations and businesses around the UK embraced Mission Inspiration with events and activities to mark Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. Engineering makes a vital contribution to UK economic growth and offers a wealth of varied and rewarding careers. To ensure British engineering continues to thrive we need to inspire future engineers.”

To find out more about Tomorrow’s Engineers, please visit


Two events held by the Royal Academy of Engineering this autumn delved into cutting-edge technology and software, and discussed how these are changing our lives.

DrDr Demis Hassabis

In September, Dr Demis Hassabis, Vice President of Engineering at Google, Co-founder and CEO of Google DeepMind, and winner of the Academy’s 2016 Silver Medal, delivered this year’s Autumn Lecture, Towards general artificial intelligence.

Dr Hassabis drew on his eclectic experiences as an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher, neuroscientist and video games designer to discuss what is happening at the cutting edge of AI research, its future potential impact on fields such as science and healthcare, and how developing AI may help us better understand the human mind.

On a similar subject, the latest event in the Ingenia live! series took place at the Academy in October, focusing on the pioneering technology used by top companies to ensure that software is high quality, more reliable and secure. Attendees at the event heard from three industry experts, with their presentations followed by a panel discussion and questions from the audience.

Ingenia(L–R) Professor Dino Distefano, Dr Marily Nika and Dr Danny Tarlow

Professor Dino Distefano, Co-founder and CEO of Monoidics and a software engineer for Facebook, relayed the experience of deploying a static analyser to verify code that uses logical reasoning but works at a velocity consistent with Facebook’s fast-paced engineering culture.

Dr Marily Nika, Engineering Program Manager at Google, discussed the impact that technology is having on our lives and how it will affect the future. She stated that the science fiction and technology that has been confined to the movies is now becoming a reality.

Dr Danny Tarlow, a researcher in the Machine Learning and Perception Group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, spoke about how current research is focusing on natural language to make everyone a programmer in future.

The evening was chaired by Dr Scott Steedman CBE FREng, Editor-in-Chief of Ingenia, in front of guests that included early-career engineers, undergraduates and sixth-form students.

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