Big Bang Diary – How eight year olds can save the UK economy

Posted on 5 Jan 2012

Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK adds to the build up to The Big Bang Young Scientists and Engineers Fair 2012 in the context of a new report from his organisation.

Engineering UK 2012: the state of engineering, was launched at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on December 8 and has the potential to be a rare good news story for the economy and for our future workforce.

So what is the headline?  Engineering accounts for nearly a quarter of the economy; is a major employer; and is at the heart of responding to global challenges and delivering UK growth.

The launch brought together Business Minister Mark Prisk with business leaders to address the challenges we face in ensuring our future engineering talent pipeline. By the time today’s primary school pupils are of working age, the UK will need over two million additional engineers to meet demand.  The message is clear: if parents want their eight year old to be out in front when the UK economy moves back into growth, they should make sure their children take physics and mathematics – a must for most engineering careers.

The report confirms what those us in the industry know: that engineering is central to ensuring economic growth and plays a major role in tackling global challenges, including climate change, health, food security, and more. At home, the challenge for the engineering, manufacturing and science sectors is to develop and exploit emerging technologies, such as advanced manufacturing, manu-services, and low carbon and environmental goods and services. The engineering sector is a huge success story generating £1.15 trillion in turnover in the year ending March 2010 – nearly 25% of the turnover of all UK businesses.

But our underlying challenges is to re-invigorate public perception about what it means to be an engineer in the twenty-first century. From large infrastructure projects like Crossrail or next year’s Olympics, to the massive impact at a microscopic level of robotic surgery, there are numerous excellent opportunities to showcase UK feats of engineering – and programmes, such as The Big Bang Fair and The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, will go a long way to inspiring our future generation of engineers.

“By the time today’s primary school pupils are of working age, the UK will need over two million additional engineers to meet demand.”

If we are going to seize the opportunities identified, then we need to take a long term view – if we are going to maintain our position in product innovation, we simply can’t afford to live just for today. There has never been a more important time for business and government – across all departments – to work together to make it happen. The launch demonstrated a commitment to do that. I can’t think of a better note with which to start the New Year.

About the report

Engineering UK: The state of Engineering is an annual report released by EngineeringUK an independant, non-profit organisation dedicated to highlighting the contribution made by engineering to the UK eceonomy and protecting the future of UK engnineering.

The launch of Engineering UK 2012: the state of engineering was attended by representatives from Alstom Ltd, Aston University, BAE Systems Plc, Crossrail, EDF Energy, EngineeringUK, Finmeccanica UK Ltd, Rolls Royce Plc, Shell UK Ltd, Semta and The Royal Academy of Engineering.

Key points from the report include:

  • Examination of the Sector Skills Assessments for the 10 engineering-related Sector Skills Councils shows that the estimated requirement for employees over the next 5-10 years will be an additional 2,217,500
  • The UK is now the seventh-largest manufacturing nation in the world, behind the USA, China, Japan, Germany Italy and France
  • In 2010, 2.5 million people were employed in UK manufacturing, representing 10% of all employees
  • Manufacturing is a major investor in Research & Development (R&D) which, in turn, is an important driver of technological innovation. Of the top 25 UK companies by R&D spend, eight are from the manufacturing sector

To read the report, go to