Berners-Lee wins engineering prize for world wide web

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

image captionSir Tim says he is committed to inspiring the next generation

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is among those who have won the first Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

The £1m award was made in recognition of his contribution to the development of the world wide web.

He shares the prize with other internet pioneers Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreessen.

"I am honoured to receive this accolade and humbled to share it with them," Sir Tim told BBC News.

The international prize has been described as the "Nobel Prize for Engineering". Its aim is to acknowledge the field's contribution to the economy and society, and act as an inspiration for young people seeking a productive career.

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), the prize is necessary because there is a perception that attitudes to engineering are outdated.

"If people think of it at all, they tend to associate engineering with heavy industry and civil infrastructure," the academy says on its website.

"It means many young, creative people - especially women - don't consider a career in engineering."

The prize is intended to convey the "sheer excitement" of modern engineering, and the way in which engineers make a real difference to the world.

This chimes with Sir Tim.

"I want the web to inspire and empower new generations of engineers - boys and, especially, girls - who will build, in turn, their own platforms, to improve our global society," he said.

The QE Prize was awarded as a report claimed there was an annual shortfall in the UK of 40,000 home-grown graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.

The Social Market Foundation said the number of UK Stem graduates had to increase by almost half to fill the skills gap.

"The government has made clear its aim to rebalance the UK economy towards manufacturing and away from financial services. But it has also pledged to reduce immigration. Our analysis shows that the gulf between skills and jobs makes these aims incompatible in the short-term," said Nida Broughton, a senior economist with the SMF and the author of the report.

Mr Broughton added that almost one-in-five 21-year-olds would need to be entering the engineering profession each year if the UK was going to meet the growing demand for engineers and scientists.

The SMF report echoes one produced last year by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The RAEng document found that 1.25 million Stem professionals and technicians - a great many of them engineers - would be needed by 2020 to support the UK's economic recovery.

Similarly, a recent Institute of Physics (IoP) study revealed that no girls from nearly half of all state schools in England went on to study A-level physics after finishing their GCSEs.

The IoP report - Jobs and growth: The Importance of Engineering Skills to the UK economy - concluded that the UK had to do more to increase the supply of engineers.

media captionGirls at Lampton School in London talk about why they love physics

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