Science & Environment

Judging panel unveiled for £1m engineering prize

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Image caption Engineering is vital to the UK economy, but firms face a skills shortfall

Organisers have announced the judging panel for a new £1m prize billed as a "Nobel" for engineers.

The14-strong panelincludes experts from a variety of disciplines, including TV physicist Brian Cox.

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is funded by an endowment and will be awarded biennially to individuals or teams of up to three.

It is designed to raise the profile of engineering, and the recipients can be of any nationality.

The fund behind it, endowed by a number of engineering firms, will be managed by an independent trust chaired by Lord Browne, past president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a former chief executive of BP.

"It is absolutely critical that we as a nation make it our mission to inspire and excite the next generation of engineers. It is only through engineering that ideas are brought out of the lab and into the marketplace," he commented, as a formal call was made for nominations.

However, award organisers will not disclose how much money they have raised, saying only that they have received long-term commitments.

It is understood that a new sponsor - the manufacturer Toshiba - has signed up since the award's official launch in London last November, which was attended by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition.

Among the other judges are Lynn Gladden, professor of chemical engineering at Cambridge University; Prof Frances Arnold, also a chemical engineer at Caltech in California, and Prof Calestous Juma, director of the Science, Tech and Globalisation Project at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Prof Cox commented: "Everything we take for granted, from medicine to telecommunications, from computing to aviation, owes its very existence to engineers."

In a message of support, the Queen said: "Over the past 60 years, I have had the privilege of seeing how engineering developments can make a profound impact on people's lives.

"I am delighted to lend my support to this prize and I hope that it inspires many more people across the globe to develop life changing engineering creations in the years to come."

According to not-for-profit group EngineeringUK, there are upwards of 550,000 engineering companies in the country, but they are facing a major shortfall in the workforce.

The 10 engineering-related UK Sector Skills Councils estimate that the industry will need over two million new recruits at all levels in the next decade to join the 5.6 million already employed by the sector.

"We need a healthy pipeline of talented, skilled and enthusiastic people to continue our proud tradition as an engineering nation. We must also give our students and young people a greater incentive to choose engineering as a career than is currently on offer," said Lord Browne.

Imran Khan, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case), has previously described the prize as a "fantastic" way to raise the profile of engineering as a driver of economic growth.

But he added: "Our research base and workforce need to be the best in the world in order to compete - the current cuts we're seeing to science and engineering will hamper that."

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