UK universities need to teach their engineering students how to innovate in a way they have not done before if the country is to thrive economically, the Royal Academy of Engineering has warned.
Its report Educating engineers to drive the innovation economy says it is important that innovation is not seen as an extracurricular activity.
It recommends two major means of equipping students to achieve step changes: first by encouraging them to address real life issues such as energy, water security and the ageing population; and second by allowing students to consider exploiting novel technological breakthroughs such as hydrogen fuel cells or new applications for microwaves.
In addition to innovation thinking, engineers will need well-developed skills to deliver an innovation driven economy.
Engineering students should routinely work together with other students, for example of management, science and social science, says the Academy, to enable them to understand the broad context for the innovative application of engineering skills.
It says the the benefits of this approach can be seen on courses like those at Georgia Tech in the USA, where they have developed a two year programme called TI:GER to help doctoral students move breakthrough research to market. Throughout the course they collaborate with MBA and legal students to consider the technical, business and legal factors that will influence the potential market for their research.