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MEI Online: General Minerals Engineering: Latest News: October 16th 2003


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:: Is UK Engineering Research on the Verge of Collapse?  

UK engineering research is in an extremely precarious position, warns the Royal Academy of Engineering in a report published last month."The gravity of the situation must he recognised before it does irrevocable damage to our economy" said the report author, Philip Ruffles, Academy Vice President. Ruffles cites the closure of 46 university engineering and technology departments since 1946, and the under-funding of many others, as an indication of this alarming trend. UK student applications to engineering courses have also halved since 1991, when they made up 10.7% of all successful applications.

Measures to combat this problem include the improvement of mathematics and science teaching in schools, as well as increased efforts in the recruitment of women into engineering. Business and communications skills could also he incorporated into engineering courses, suggests the Academy Rail and other civil infrastructure is already suffering from the lack of qualified engineers.

Research organisations such as the Faraday Institutes are playing an important role in forging links between industry and academia, which are economically important. But the low ratio of R&D spend to sales in UK companies (2.2%), compared to the US (4.3%) for example, shows an underlying investment problem. The government needs a national research strategy to identify the UK's engineering strength and vulnerabilities to help it combine short-term research priorities with longer-term objectives, said Ruffles.



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