Friday 12 July 2019 4:25 am

Give me a fulcrum and lever long enough: London’s engineers are moving the world

British ideas continue to move the world.

Irrespective of the political developments around Brexit, the soft power and influence of our industrial intellectual property and engineering innovation benefits not just Britain, but transforms lives around the world.

Today, London and the rest of the UK celebrate the fiftieth anniversary winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award. Last night, a Belfast-based team of engineers from Bombardier were honoured for devising an aircraft wing that reduces the environmental impact of commercial flight. 

The award comes at a time of uncertainty for this team, with the company’s Canadian owner putting the Belfast factory up for sale. 

This award should assure would-be buyers that in this Belfast company they are acquiring truly world-class technology 

Just look at London’s skyline, which has been shaped by the global headquarters of past Award winners such as Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, and Arup.  

The past winners of the MacRobert Award represent the pinnacle of UK engineering innovation – not only are they generating economic benefits, but they are also making people’s lives better. 

My experience over the last three years of judging British engineering teams fortunate enough to have been honoured with the MacRobert Award shows how important such recognition is in securing talent and contracts from all over the world. 

London has long been a global city, and those connections drive growth. The latest figures show that the number of engineering enterprises registered in London grew 10 per cent last year – the fastest rate in the country. 

From civil engineering to fintech and mechanics, bringing teams together in the capital helps to catalyse the breakthroughs that will secure mayor Sadiq Khan’s vision for London as a global test-bed for city innovation.

Projects that have previously won the Award, such as the Raspberry Pi or the Millennium Dome (now the O2), were step-change innovations that transformed their sectors and created jobs and growth. 

While the world’s smallest computer and the largest tented structure are very different, the creation of both involved many UK engineers, designers, and manufacturers, and they have inspired others to pursue careers in engineering. 

Such inspiration has never been more important. Every year, the UK faces a shortfall of up to 59,000 engineers and technicians with core engineering skills. If we are to retain and enhance our competitive advantage as a world leader in engineering, we must continue to recognise and empower our industry to innovate and attract inward investment. 

In tougher economic conditions, it is natural to feel reluctant to share with others, but both the public and industry alike must recognise the benefits of doing so. 

The MacRobert Award Medal is inscribed with Archimedes’ words: “Give me a fulcrum and a lever long enough… and I will move the world”.

It reminds us that our true leverage as the world’s eighth largest manufacturing economy comes from sharing our wealth of ideas and talent with the world, with all the associated economic and societal benefits this brings.

Main image credit: Getty

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