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Prime minister David Cameron launches £1M prize for engineering

Prime minster David Cameron has unveiled a £1M “Nobel” prize for engineering that will be awarded biennially to an engineer or small team of engineers that has achieved an “outstanding advance” to benefit to humanity.

Cameron said the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering would inspire and excite young people to become engineers and turn Britain back into a country that “makes things again”.

“I am delighted that the Queen has put her name to this prestigious prize, which I hope will carry the same stature as the Nobel Prizes,” he said.

“For too long Britain’s economy has been over-reliant on consumer debt and financial services. We want to rebalance the economy so that Britain makes things again - high skilled high value manufacturing and engineering should be a central part of our long term future.

“I hope this prize will go some way to inspire and excite young people about engineering, so that they dream of becoming engineers as they once did in the age of Stephenson and Brunel.”

Cameron highlighted the role played by consultant Arup, “the firm that the world turns to when engineers are needed for extraordinary structures”, and others working on the “incredible” Crossrail project.

The ICE said the launch of the prize was further evidence of the growing recognition of the importance of engineering.

“This prize will put on the world stage the engineers and engineering feats that are too often only recognised by our own industry,” said ICE president Richard Coackley.

“It is further evidence that the importance of engineering to our society - particularly in driving economic growth - is recognised not only by the government, but across the political spectrum.”

Cameron was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband in launching the prize.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

The £1M prize will be awarded biennially in the name of Her Majesty The Queen to an individual or team of up to three people, of any nationality, directly responsible for advancing the application of engineering knowledge.

As well as recognising and celebrating the best, the Prize will provide an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate how engineers and engineering are making a real difference across the world.

A number of major engineering companies have donated to an endowment fund, which is being managed by an independent charitable trust, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, chaired by Lord Browne. The Royal Academy of Engineering will deliver the prize on behalf of the trust.

BAE Systems, BG Group, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Jaguar Land Rover, National Grid, Shell, Siemens, Sony, Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Steel have all contributed to the prize fund.

The trust is appointing an international, expert judging panel, whose names will be announced at the same time as the call for nominations, in February 2012. 

The prize winner will be announced in December 2012 and will be awarded the prize in Spring 2013.


Cameron on civil engineers

“Our engineers changed the world and their brilliant successors today are still doing just that. Their names ring down in history: Matthew Boulton and James Watt, who brought steam power to the world; Abraham Darby, who first smelted iron with coal, and whose grandson built the first iron bridge anywhere, still standing in Shropshire; Richard Arkwright, who transformed textiles with the first modern factories; Thomas Telford, the great engineer behind the bridges and roads that linked England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland; George Stephenson, the railway engineer, whose Rocket is in this museum. Many others, obviously, not least Isambard Kingdom Brunel, voted by the public as the second greatest Briton ever, behind only Winston Churchill.

“So, this is a story the country wants to celebrate, and one that we should celebrate, but it’s not just part of our past. We are still very much at it today, with Arup, based here in London, the firm that the world turns to when engineers are needed for extraordinary structures, from the Sydney Opera House to Beijing’s new railway station, Rolls-Royce, who make the best jet engines on the planet, or the engineers right now working under the streets of this city to build the incredible Crossrail project, which is actually as dramatic as anything done by their Victorian predecessors. But engineering today means so much more.

“We want young people leaving school today to see engineering for the exciting, dynamic profession that it is, because in many ways, engineers are the real revolutionaries, the ones who take society forward, who create the technologies and the structures which carry us into new worlds.

“They are the ones who will find the ways to overcome climate change, to answer challenges and create new industries – ones that haven’t even been thought of yet. That is why we need this prize: to urge people on, to encourage daring, open minds to new possibilities.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • I distinctly heard the PM mention ARUP as pre-eminent engineers, yet you do not print their name. Is this publication afraid of living structural/civil engineering practices, or do you simply try to ignore them and promote only aerospace, oil and other sectors? Why oh why is there a definite reluctance to promote the engineers who are principally your main readers?

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  • Alexander<br/>I was at the launch and you are absolutely correct that David Cameron mentioned Arup in his speech - he singled the firm out as "the firm the world turns to" as I remember. Which was nice for Arup and all Arup employees. However, unlike the firms mentioned in the story, Arup did not contribute to the prize fund.<br/>I assure you that I have no reluctance in promoting the achievement of NCE's readers and to this end I commend all the civil engineers (of which there are many) working for BAE Systems, BG Group, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Jaguar Land Rover, National Grid, Shell, Siemens, Sony, Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Steel for supporting this award. <br/>When someone from Arup, Buro Happold (note that Paul Westbury was also on Radio 4 this morning), Mott Macdonald, CH2M Hill, Balfour Beatty etc etc wins this award, NCE will of course heartily and appropriately congratulate them.<br/>Antony Oliver, editor, NCE

  • We must be grateful for this piece of recognition for engineering (especially coming from a politician) and we could say better late then never. It will be interesting to see if this does promote engineering and attract more talent to the various elements of this broad based profession. On its own I remain somewhat more than doubtful, if only on the basis that the value of engineering is wholly unrecognised by our society and often taken for granted (re the recent remarks by Lord Sugar which were despicably unhelpful). We need engineers to reach the heights of governance, national policy and strategic direction. This is not their comfort zone since it is already populated by career politicians, lawyers and financiers whose mismanagement of national affairs in favour of their own ends is likely to prevail until we have something much more revolutionary well beyond a singular prize for effort.
    Jim Barrack MICE

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  • Barry Walton

    Are all of the complainers (and PM Cameron) missing a point and is there more moaning misery to come when the prize is won by some zealous Indians and Chinese working out of a university in South America? As the sponsor firms, or their parent companies or shareholders are international the Queen is presumably lending her name as leader of the Comonwealth, at least, rather than the Queen of Britain.

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