World’s top engineers call for protection of R&D funding

Research and development R&D laboratory manufacturing

Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering judges and trustees have called on world governments to protect education spend in order to produce the next generation of engineers.

Some of the world’s leading engineers and business people  – all members of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering’s trustee board and judging panel – have penned a letter in The Times of London, calling on global governments to preserve education and Research and Development (R&D) spending across their respective countries.

The letter marks the opening of public nominations for the 2017 QEPrize winner and Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday.

Within the letter the judges and trustees reflect on Her Majesty’s life and the role engineering and technology has played in it over the past 90 years.

The letter has been signed by the QEPrize judges and trustees, comprising academics, business leaders and heads of engineering associations from the UK; Germany; America; Japan; India; Switzerland, and Singapore.

Collectively the 18 signatories cite engineering as a driver of productivity and emphasise technology’s increasing impact on human life as a reason for safeguarding education and R&D funds.

Lord Browne of Madingley, chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, commented: “In order for governments to reap the benefits from engineers they need to protect their research and development budgets.

“Through protecting this investment, engineers will be empowered and able to continue solving the world’s greatest challenges. Some of these engineers may go on to be the next QEPrize winner, but if not, they will at the very least provide their governments with more vital skills, goods and services which can be exported or traded to benefit their country.”

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, chairman of the judging panel, added: “There is currently a skills deficit in the number of engineers coming out of the education system across all our countries.

“We need to protect STEM education’s funding, and encourage those who shape primary and secondary education to allow more children to learn through a more hands-on approach, applying their formal academic knowledge and developing the necessary skills to grow into the engineers and scientists of tomorrow.”

The letter in full:

Sir,

Tomorrow, as Her Majesty The Queen celebrates her 90th birthday, we begin the process of finding the winner of the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering; a driver of change, an engineer who has engaged human imagination with the gears of technology.

The Queen has lived through an era of profound change throughout the world. There have been triumphs and disasters, hope and despair, victory and loss. However, one of the central themes of the last nine decades is the impact of increasingly advanced technology on human life.

The year 1926 marked Robert H Goddard’s invention of the liquid-fuel rocket, and saw John Logie Baird demonstrate the first “mechanical television”. Since then, the rocket has given us satellite communications, GPS, an eye on the universe and discoveries about weather and physics that have revolutionised our view of ourselves and our planet; television has connected us globally, opening the way to an almost limitless source of information, education and entertainment.

These were pioneering engineers – like those celebrated by the QEPrize – harnessing physical properties and chemical processes to the service of our species. Engineering does that for us. It is the servant of progress, indispensable to our future.

We collectively appeal to those who control government budgets for education, research and development to protect funding for the next generation of engineers, even in these straitened times. Their work will sharpen our vision of the future and drive greater productivity for the next 90 years. 

Yours faithfully

  • Lord Browne of Madingley – Chairman, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation
  • Professor Frances Arnold – Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, Caltech
  • Sir John Beddington – Founding Trustee, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation
  • Professor Brian Cox – Professor of Particle Physics, University of Manchester and Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science
  • Professor Dame Ann Dowling – Trustee, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation and President, Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Mala Gaonkar – Founding Trustee, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation
  • Professor Lynn Gladden – Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Professor John Hennessy – President, Stanford University
  • Professor Reinhard Hüttl – President, acatech
  • Professor Calestous Juma – Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Professor Hiroshi Komiyama – President, Engineering Academy of Japan
  • Dr Dan Mote – President, US National Academy of Engineering
  • Narayana Murthy – Founder, Infosys
  • Sir Paul Nurse – Founding Trustee, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation
  • Professor Choon Fong Shih – University Professor, National University of Singapore
  • Professor Sir Christopher Snowden – Vice-Chancellor, University of Southampton and Chair of Judging Panel, Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
  • Professor Viola Vogel – Head of Laboratory of Applied Mechanobiology, ETH Zurich
  • Paul Westbury – Group Technical Director, Laing O’Rourke