As The Engineer magazine launches its annual Collaborate to Innovate (C2I) awards, editor Jon Excell reflects on the importance of engineering collaboration.

UK engineering has many strengths, but arguably one of its greatest assets is its strong and growing culture of collaboration: a willingness to share knowledge across organisations; an understanding that by tapping into external areas of expertise, engineering teams can achieve far more than they could ever do alone.

The Engineer magazine  – which reports on technological breakthroughs from across the broad spectrum of UK engineering – has something of a front row seat on this process, and it’s difficult to think of a major technological innovation or successful project in recent years that hasn’t been underpinned by collaboration.

As we look at the technological trends that are shaping the future – such as the rise of autonomy and connectivity or the advance of low carbon vehicles – it’s clear that the boundaries between once distinct areas of engineering are becoming increasingly blurred, and that cross-disciplinary collaboration will become increasingly key to solving the challenges that we face.

What’s more, the need for industry to pool expertise and make the most of every tool at its disposal will become even more important as UK engineering seeks to maintain its edge in the post-Brexit world.

But whilst collaboration may be a UK strength, we shouldn’t be complacent. Effective collaboration doesn’t always just happen naturally, and as the government’s industrial strategy green paper acknowledges we can always get better at it.

This was why, last year, we launched Collaborate To Innovate (C2I), an awards competition aimed at celebrating the UK’s most inspiring engineering collaborations and, critically, shedding some light on the factors at the heart of their success.

The winning entries – which ranged from the UK’s new aircraft carriers to the development of tools for producing bespoke 3D printed cranial implants – provided a striking showcase of both the variety of projects underway in the UK and also the degree to which engineers from across industry and academia are working together.

The search is now on for the 2017 finalists.

This year – with the help of our project partner EPSRC – we’ve come up with a list of categories designed to showcase the very best cross-disciplinary collaborations. We want to hear from innovative collaborative projects across areas including transport, health, energy efficiency and sustainability, information and connectivity, safety and security, and the built environment. Two separate categories: Academic Innovator and Young Innovator, will respectively showcase excellence in the UK’s academic research base, and great examples of STEM outreach to schools.

Entries will be judged by a panel of some of the UK’s most respected engineers, and winners will be announced at a special party in London later this summer (September). In December, delegates at our dedicated C2I conference will then hear first hand from our winners about the secrets of their success.

By spotlighting innovation and collaboration in this way, we hope to play our own small part in fostering the culture of collaboration that will shape the future of UK engineering, and I’d like to take this opportunity to urge anyone involved in an innovative collaboration to consider entering. I hope to see some of you at our winners’ party later this summer.

The closing date for entries is 26th May. To find out more about The Engineer’s C2I awards follow the link below.

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Jon Excell

Jon Excell

Jon Excell is editor of The Engineer magazine, a technology & innovation publication and website for engineers.
Jon Excell

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