The UK’s leading engineering institutions came together on 10 July to discuss some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing the UK, as part of the work of the National Engineering Policy Centre.
The National Engineering Policy Centre is an ambitious partnership, led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, between 38 different UK engineering organisations representing 450,000 engineers.
The Centre connects policy makers with critical engineering expertise to inform and respond to policy issues of national importance, giving policymakers a route to advice from across the whole profession, and the profession a unified voice on shared challenges. The Academy’s ambition is that the Centre will be a trusted partner for policy makers, enabling them to access excellent engineering expertise, for social and economic benefit.
Shadow Industrial Strategy Minister Chi Onwurah MP gave the keynote address at a plenary session of the Centre held at the Royal Aeronautical Society. During her speech Chi championed the important role of engineering, highlighting the potential for it to change people’s lives for the better. She also praised the ambitions of the Centre, and said:
‘All engineering takes place within a political, regulatory and ethical framework. That’s why it’s so important that the worlds of engineering and politics come together constructively. I would like to see the National Engineering Policy Centre and the voice of engineering on a par with the other institutions that politicians go to for expert insight. It’s up to you in this room to set out engineering policy options in a way that politicians and policymakers can engage with.’
Delegates then participated in interactive sessions to inform the Centre’s work around three current priority areas:
- Business Investment in R&D: an exploration of the factors that influence engineering businesses’ decisions to invest in R&D in the UK, to find practical ways to remove the barriers to increased business investment. The session focused on how to better support engineering companies to innovate and transform their ideas into products to market.
- Digital skills, engineers and the fourth industrial revolution: a project to identify the digital skills needs of engineers across different disciplines encompassing both new technologies and existing systems.
- Safety and ethics of autonomous systems: a project looking at how the UK might regulate these new technologies in a way that encourages innovation while ensuring safe and ethical use. The session discussed implications for the engineering profession.
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