UK engineering - a success story that needs sustaining

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An independent report on the economic impact of engineering in the UK is published today (Monday 02 March), by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The report, Assessing the economic returns of engineering research and postgraduate training in the UK, has been compiled by the Technopolis group. It highlights the remarkable contribution of engineering to the nation's economy and the everyday lives of UK citizens.

The report estimates that engineering-related sectors contributed circa £280 billion in gross value added (GVA) in 2011, equivalent to 20% of the UK's total GVA. Engineering-related sectors exported goods and services valued at around £239 billion in 2011, some 48% of the total value of exports for that year.

The report also flags up the importance of engineering research to key sectors including aerospace, pharmaceuticals, software and computing and highlights the fact that sectors with high concentrations of graduate engineers report high levels of innovation activity and productivity.

The report concludes that the quality of engineering research carried out in the UK and our world class engineering facilities and businesses attract substantial high-value, high-tech inward investment from around the world.

The review benefited from privileged access to over 500 individual Research Excellence Framework (REF) case studies from around 50 different higher education institutions, which showcase the impact of engineering research in all its forms.

Together, they provide comprehensive evidence of the economic and social impact of UK engineering research over the last 20 years. One third of the case studies refer to increases in productivity and competitiveness, citing research that has led to new processes offering efficiency gains and cost savings.

Professor Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: This report demonstrates the enormous quality and scale of the contribution that engineering research makes to the UK economy.

UK businesses invest nearly £10 billion a year in engineering research, but the private sector alone cannot create all of the growth initiatives. Technological advances increasingly drive economic growth and increased public investment in engineering research is essential if we wish to keep pace with our global competitors. We must build and nurture strong relationships between industry and the university sector and its unique research capabilities. This kind of collaboration is crucial to developing innovative products and creating new technology-led services.

Professor Philip Nelson FREng, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said: Engineering touches many more areas of modern life than people might imagine. New discoveries and developments that cross disciplines mean engineering and engineers are absolutely essential to providing solutions to the challenges we face, nationally and globally.

This joint report shows the benefits of investing in research, discovery and innovation. However, if we are to maintain the UK's position as an innovation crucible we must be prepared to plan for the long term with sustained support for our research base and training for the engineers of tomorrow.

Professor John Fisher CBE FREng, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Leeds, EPSRC Council Member and chair of the steering group, said: Engineering research in the UK is world-leading in quality and efficiency and second only to the US in total volume. This report by Technopolis shows the benefits of engineering research and training are pervasive throughout the economy and society from transport to construction, from energy to manufacturing, from digital to communications and media, from health to professional services. It contributes more than 20% of GVA and underpins innovation, high value manufacturing, exports and economic growth. Sustained investment in engineering research, training and skills is essential to support future economic growth and the resulting benefits to society.

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Notes for Editors

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Royal Academy of Engineering

As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.

We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.

Reference: PN 11-15