Engineers should get more ‘arty’

Posted on 18 Nov 2014 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Former director-general for knowledge and innovation at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sir John O’Reilly says engineers should embrace the arts, which are a crucial part in creating new products and boosting future economic competitiveness.

His lecture, entitled Full STEAM ahead for growth: knowledge, innovation and industrial strategy will argue that it is vitally important to recognise the role of the arts, notably design and aesthetics in creativity and critical thinking. This is hugely relevant when it comes to conceiving people-centred solutions or innovations.

Sir John, due to give a talk on the subject at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Mountbatten Memorial Lecture on November 20, commented: “We depend on engineering and technology for pretty much everything these days.

“For example in just the IT area with have the likes of internet shopping; computer-supported air traffic control; smartphones for business and friends; tablets for watching TV and so forth.

“In all of these areas, the ability to innovate is crucial for success. We often – rightly – hear of the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) but we need to ensure we don’t miss a trick by not giving due weight also to the arts.

“Engineering and technology is an increasingly diverse and creative domain – hence STEAM. When you bring in the arts you include some important people-centric aspects that can be crucial to success: in practical use and in the market.”

There are several outstanding examples in manufacturing where art and design have been embraced to good effect. Dyson, the British technology company that designs and manufactures a range of household appliances – is a great example of a UK-based firm that has embraced the innovation that STEAM proposes.

For more information on the event, visit