This follows the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s commitment of £2bn per year by 2020 for research and development funding and £1bn for digital infrastructure.
Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, believes these investments recognise the critical role that engineering plays in stimulating economic growth and they should be applied right across the country.
“There are neglected areas of the UK with a long and proud engineering heritage that could be revitalised through the right investment, creating jobs where they are most needed and supporting economic growth,” said Dame Dowling. “Creating jobs is only a part of the solution however.”
Dame Dowling believes these promised investments can only deliver productivity if there is investment in the skills that employers need.
“This represents a major opportunity to get Britain back on its feet, and to accelerate the growth of emerging engineering technologies – such as robotics – that are going to have the most transformative impact on society in years to come,” said Dame Dowling. “It will be important to match these investments with a substantial drive to attract and train more skilled engineers to ensure they make a real difference to productivity and to communities across the UK.”
For example, there is an opportunity to be internationally competitive in digital technologies such as robotics and 5G mobile communications.
“Investing £700m in 5G technology is a step in the right direction, but we will need enough skilled engineers to make this a reality and to ensure economic resilience as the UK leaves the EU,” warned Dame Dowling.
The Royal Academy of Engineering runs schools engagement projects in economically deprived areas such as Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, to raise aspirations and skills levels among students and contribute towards the creation of an engineering skills base capable of meeting the region’s future needs.
“But much more work needs to be done across the country to equip communities with the technical and vocational skills that are so in demand, and meet the future needs of the economy. The government’s industrial strategy will be critical in delivering that step change in our skills base,” said Dame Dowling.