Across the world, we look to engineers to solve our biggest problems, improve the quality of our lives and drive progress in society. Yet interest in engineering lags behind other key industries such as science and maths, leaving a heavy burden for engineers to shoulder.
Paul Westbury, a QEPrize judge and group technical director of international engineering organisation, Laing O’Rourke, highlighted the need to work closely with other industries to drive innovation.
“Science, technology and mathematics are cornerstones to engineering, so with interest in STEM and science seen to be riding high, it is noteworthy that this excitement doesn’t always translate. Engineering takes science and develops technology solutions that make it directly applicable to the world around us,” he said.
When it comes to implementing large-scale and world-changing innovations, this collaboration between engineering and other professional industries is crucial. Take, for example, the creation of renewable energy systems linked to smart grids; traditional infrastructure combines with a wealth of communication and computational technologies, meaning engineers must work closely with experts from across a range of industries.
As populations explode and development accelerates faster than ever before, the role of engineers is becoming broader, allowing them to tackle the increasingly complex problems of a developing world. In emerging economies, interest in engineering is at an all-time high, with software services in India alone employing upwards of 300,000 people every year.
Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys and QEPrize judge, suggested the diversity of engineering roles was not only good for business, but increased equality in industry.
“This boom is partly due to businesses wanting to make use of the comparatively cheap production and talent costs,” he said. “Yet it is also helped by the fact most of the work modern engineers do involves design and programming, rather than hard physical labour. This is opening the door to more women and leading to a better gender balance.”
Professor Dame Ann Dowling, trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation and president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, agreed, pointing out that the collaborative nature of engineering challenges outdated public perceptions.
“Engineering has an enormous impact on societies, affecting everything from energy, water and transport, to the supply chain of every major global industry,” she said. “Showcasing the creative, collaborative and team-based sides of engineering work and leveraging interest in other STEM fields, which often overlap, undermines dated stereotypes of what an engineer is.”
This month we are taking a look at just why collaboration in engineering is important, and how it is helping to bring our favourite innovations to life.