Engineers gallery opens at the Science Museum

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29 June 2023


Our Engineers gallery, dedicated to world-changing engineering innovations and the diverse and fascinating range of people behind them, is now open at the Science Museum.

Engineers change the world. They work creatively, sustainably, with precision, and collaboratively, to create bold, ground-breaking responses to global challenges and improve billions of lives. The free Engineers gallery celebrates our engineering heritage and showcases some of these innovations through the global lens of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering – the world’s leading award for engineers – with current and past prize winners featured throughout.

Forming the heart of the gallery are richly illustrated, characterful stories from 60 engineers working in a broad range of industries, such as farming, fashion, robotics and medicine, shining a light on their lives, motivations, ways of thinking, and what they do day-to-day. Highlighting a breadth of promising new work which builds on the successes of previous QEPrize winners, these stories sit within four distinct sections.

Bodies looks at how engineers are vital to our health and wellbeing and showcases innovations developed to deliver precision treatments to people who need them most.

In Lives, LED lighting and digital imaging sensors illustrate how engineers have transformed how we light and interpret our world ever more successfully and sustainably.

In Connections, GPS, internet and web technologies represent engineering as a connected practice and shows how engineers enable the networks humanity relies on to thrive.

And the section on Creating reveals how engineers think in particular ways, defining and solving problems, adapting and improving, visualising outcomes, thinking about systems, and learning from failures. Their creative ways of thinking are central to developing amazing innovations which can change the world.

Object highlights include: the Ventura CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, rapidly devised in just 100 hours by University College London and collaborators; the cutting-edge CMR ‘Versius’ surgical robot arm; the world’s first digital colour camera; a miniature atomic clock which the entire GPS system depended upon; and a life-size replica of a OneWeb communications satellite suspended from the ceiling. Also on display is the water kettle of pioneering steam engineer, James Watt, embodying the inception of steam power, and directly above along one wall sweeps a stunning display of 3D Concorde models, charting the evolution of the supersonic jet’s wing design over time. At the centre of the gallery is the striking ATLAS PROTOTYPE sculpture, an articulated hydraulic arm standing atop a solid carved concrete block, made by artist and speculative engineer, James Capper.

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Engineers gallery launch. Credit: Science Museum

Research shows young people’s knowledge of engineering is low, and what they do know is often influenced by stereotypes and misinformation (Educational Pathways into Engineering, Engineering UK 2020). By connecting audiences with people just like themselves who have created and pursued innovation, this new gallery provides a much-needed entry to a subject many feel disconnected from, and open people’s eyes to the possibilities it affords.

Opening on International Women in Engineering Day #INWED, the gallery also seeks to address the longstanding inequality in the number of young women being accepted onto university engineering degrees (18%*) and in the UK engineering workforce (16.5%*). By featuring young female engineers from different backgrounds, and their exciting real-world solutions that help society to flourish, the free gallery inspires the next generation of girls to consider choosing engineering careers.

Situated on Level 1 of the museum, Engineers is the first permanent gallery of its kind focusing on engineers and their inventions and is located adjacent to Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery, which opened in November 2022. These complementary galleries showcase a rich suite of personal stories and innovations that impact our everyday life and today’s opening marks full access to Level 1 for the first time since early 2017. The fresh, contemporary design of the gallery has used carefully selected sustainable building materials, including a UK-based composite recycled plastic made primarily of yoghurt pots, as well as low energy LEDs, reflecting engineers’ role in building a sustainable future.

Responses to the gallery

Sir Ian Blatchford, Director and Chief Executive of the Science Museum Group

‘Everyday life depends on the skills and creativity of engineers. In bringing this fabulous new gallery to life, we’re delighted to be working with the QEPrize, whose recognition of some of the most brilliant minds and important innovations of our time is so vital. I know our many visitors will be inspired by the stories they will encounter.’

Lord Browne of Madingley FREng FRS, Chairman of The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation

‘Engineering enables and enhances every aspect of modern life and we are honoured to be able to work with the Science Museum to showcase the creativity and exhilaration of engineering innovation in such a public forum. Engineers hold the key to solving many of the global challenges we face in the future and the QEPrize exists to celebrate their visionary achievements.’

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the QEPrize and of the Royal Academy of Engineering

‘2023 marks the first decade of the QEPrize and its role in championing bold, ground-breaking engineering innovation that is of global benefit to humanity. Working with our global QEPrize Ambassador Network of early career engineers, some of whom are featured in this exhibition, we aim to inspire young people from all backgrounds, all around the world, to consider a future career in engineering.’

Chloe Smith MP, Science and Technology Secretary

‘Museums have the power to inspire, particularly at a young age, and I have no doubt that the Engineers’ Gallery will ignite a spark in the creative minds of a new generation.

This Government will always back innovation. The 10th anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a fantastic opportunity to mark the UK’s crucial contribution to this field, and to give us a fascinating insight into the importance of engineering in our daily lives.’

Keir Starmer MP, Leader of His Majesty’s Official Opposition

‘Engineers are essential to growing the economy and solving the formidable technological challenges that we face both here in the UK and around the world, from achieving net zero carbon emissions and enabling clean energy to addressing food security.

The opening of this new gallery at the Science Museum will undoubtedly inspire many more young people from all walks of life to consider engineering as a future career, and I look forward to watching them grow and develop in the years to come.’

The QEPrize is a major funder of Engineers, and we are grateful to Siemens UK, the John Browne Charitable Trust, the Surgo Foundation US, Professor Andrew Blakers, Dr Aihua Wang and Dr Jianhua Zhao for their generous contributions.

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