back to article £1m 'Nobel prize of engineering' named after the Queen

Britain will play host to a biennial £1m engineering prize which it's hoped will come to confer the same status as a Nobel award. The cash is being coughed up by British industry and the trophy will be known as "the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering", but recipients can be of any nationality. The prize will be run by the …

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FAIL

good grief rickenbacker !!

a Nobel prize was something to aim for, but "the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering" makes it sound like a girl guides badge - trust a tory to fix something that wasn't broken and make it worse (trains, gas, electric, phones, the navy, british industry, britain,...)

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Mushroom

is there a Noble prize for Engineering?

I don't think so.

If you think there is nothing wrong with the state of engineering in Britain then you are in a minority. You might want to consult those with some insight - James Dyson et al.

Perhaps there should be an award for sneering on the sidelines too.

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Anonymous Coward

It is indeed nice

to hear that Girl Guides are getting taught engineering. I think maybe bunging them £1M quid when they pass is a bit much, though.

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give use your ideas and IPRs

and you may just win a prize - We dont just end up giving it to someone we know or a dev team from a spinoff company of one of the judges businesses - honest!

Yeah - even local councils are trying the "develop stuff for prizes" muppet trap.

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Silver badge

Engineering

The status of engineering in the UK and in UK culture is, and always has been, poor. It has never been viewed like the traditional professions: law, medical, military and even church. This puts us at a disadvantage compared to coutries where the reverse is true like Japan, the USA and Germany. Everyone knows this but the decades pass and we are unable to change it.

The "Queen Elizabeth Prize" is a good name. It would be more effective if a member of the royal family could study engineering. Having that splashed on the front of OK! magazine would help the cause moer than 100 prizes.

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Anonymous Coward

"and always has been"

A number of bridges and steam engines would like to disagree with you.

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"has always been poor", really?

... in the home of the industrial revolution? To say it has never been good is going a little too far. To quote Goring talking about the Mosquito but more generally British engineering, "It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked."

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Yeah. The Egyptians were pretty good at it too I hear. I think people are criticising the here-and-now. To the world at large, the UK is not a byword for good engineering...quite the opposite in fact...

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Someone like the Duke of Gloucester?

(Okay, okay... He's 'just' an architect, I know...)

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Silver badge

" ...and always has been, poor"

A couple of people thought I was talking about engineering achievement in Britain, rather than the status of engineering vs other professions. Obviously Britain has always been at the forefront of science and enginnering. I wasn't talking about that. Is it the status of Engineering, and the Engineer, that is poor in the UK.

Most people in the UK don't know that Engineering exists as a profession. They associate "Engineer" with somebody who comes to unblock your vending machine, not a chap who desigs silicon chips. The media share this general ignorance and are happy to continue it.

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How to bring back Industrial Excellence to Britain.

Reduce the number of "media studies" type degrees.

Change all the "new universities" back to polytechnics.

Change the perception of engineering back to a profession like medicine or teaching.

At it's peak, British engineering excellence wasn't created by academics or managers, but by engineers and technicians.

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Anonymous Coward

@RainForestGuppy

I'll second that with all my heart and soul.

I'm pissed off to the gills by all these 'soft skills' education courses. From my own close experience I can see only one driving force behind the education in my 2 local "Universities" - extract money from Chinese families in return for a few months of low quality education that, in my day, would not have equipped the student to get a decent A level pass, never mind the 'Master' (FFS!) degree they now receive.

The typical career 'manager' (with no management expereince at all) at a University is there only as a revenue attractor/gatherer, acting primarily to protect a career of worthless value to the country. This is a total dereliction of duty to the country and the tax-payer, for reasons of personal selfis hness and greed. Our Universities should be creating informed, knowlegeable, iminently employable and capable graduates who can help our industry compete effectively with their peers from the newly developing countries.

Which country is creating the most high-speed rail systems in the world today? Us ? Not even close. Who has the contract to build the high speed rail system in California? Us? You must be joking. Who is building the great infrsatructure projects (water, gas etc) ? Not us.

We have a mere handful of world-class 'hard skills' companies and industries, like F1, opto-electronics, marine engineering, for example, but the Government's understanding of the need for investment and the bankers wilfull refusal to support technology industries is a national disgrace.

We cannot live by banking alone. We canot 'debt reduce' our way to prosperity.

We neeed a root and branch culling of the politcal elite who rule us today who, almost completely, have no physical sciences background or understanding. They are in the way of progress and are relentlessly limiting my future for their own interest. No wonder I'm pissed off with the lot of them: Westminster and City.

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No.

You simply have to have a mandate that any manager must hold a certified engineering qualification (IEE, BEng, et cetera.) When you have people who can think logically in positions of power, then you will start seeing magic happen - not before.

Media Studies graduates have their uses, though - every company needs to hire cleaners...

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Anonymous Coward

RAE?

Ah yes. The former centre for Engineering that I can see from my office as I type this.

To me, the only RAE worth knowing about is the 'Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough'.

Why?

I was an apprentice Enginner there from 1968-1972. I'm working now less than 100yds from where I started work all those years ago. What goes around etc...

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Stop

Wot, no "II"?

Is the lack of a number for Liz a sop to the Scots?

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Not going to be obvious

It is rather hard to see how this prize is really going to work. It is clearly modelled directly on the Nobel. The rules allow for one to three recipients, and the criteria include: "a groundbreaking advance in engineering which has created significant benefit to humanity".

But the nature of engineering isn't like science. Whittling down an engineering contribution to three prime people is going to be a huge problem. The nature of engineering is building on what has gone before, and delivering results in a timely, safe, and risk free manner. And it involves teams.

Take an example from computing. How about we nominate Ken Thomson, Denis Ritchie, and Brian Kernighan? Whilst the creation of Unix was important, the face of computing as we know it would probably be almost the same if it had not been written. The most common desktop OS isn't a Unix variant. Perhaps any prize should include Dave Cutler. But then, the true operating system innovations were long before any of these guys. The PDP-7 Unix was written on already had an operating system. There are so so so many people that contributed that makes no sense at all to go looking for "the three". Try to nominate the three giants of engineering the Apollo programme.

The danger is that it might simply become a surrogate science prize for areas of science that don't fit into the Nobel categories.

(On the other hand we all probably have favourites. Personally, if he were still alive, I would be nominating Tommy Flowers for the prize.)

It would be interesting to have some example nominations.

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Silver badge

Maybe more obvious than you think

Isambard Brunel would have probably got the prize for the Great Western Railway if it had been around in his day. That was an engineering project which was pretty groundbreaking at the time. I guess it will become more obvious once a few prizes are given out, and that is a good thing because it will demonstrate what good engineering can do.

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Bronze badge

Thompson and Ritchie

Actually, these two did get the Association for Computing Machinery's Turing Award, years ago.

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Silver badge
FAIL

*English* status of engineering

Has always been poor. Remember, the class system puts people who inherited Daddys title above all else.

In Germany, "Engineer" is a respected social moniker - akin to medical doctor. Passport applications can be countersigned by an engineer.

In the UK, lets see .. doctor, MP, policeman ... not engineer.

And a not inconsiderable number of British engineers have actually been Scottish.

My sons school held an open evening for 3 local Unis last year. One of them held up as an example of why you should go to university a person who graduated in 2010, and had already landed a £40,000 job .... in political sciences for a US bank. I stood up and asked how many scientists and engineers, and doctors the Uni had produced. Silence.

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Anonymous Coward

Point of information

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Passports/Applicationinformation/DG_174151

Engineers with 'professional qualifications' can countersign passport photos. Presumably that means the guy that fixes your washing machine can't.

But I concur, I will not be promoting engineering to my son.

It is a stupid career, initially interesting yes if you are that way inclined and then when you get to 40 or 50 you realize you're as useful as gas a gas mantle packer. Unless you have the unlimited capacity to learn everything new.

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Boffin

To be fair...

...Engineers can also countersign passport applications in the UK (I know, I've done a few).

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Silver badge

An Engineer can sign a passport application

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Passports/Applicationinformation/DG_174151

Who you can ask to be your countersignatory

These are examples of the type of person that would be suitable:

- engineer (with professional qualifications)

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Image problem for engineers

In the UK an engineer is someone who fixes your washing machine, in Germany he is heralded by a magnificent Herr Doktor.

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Silver badge

Big up Scotland Engineering

Right on. (I'm English). Sometimes I think everyone in Scotland must be an Engineer or mathematician. They don't f**k about up there.

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Thumb Down

would have been more popular...

...if they'd named it after a real engineer - Dilbert!

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Give it to Dyson

Cos the world has changed so much as a result of his engineering success that he moved the production off-shore, along with the production engineers presumably.

Its true, we don't need engineers in the UK - or if they do they just open up the floodgates and get loads of cheap ones from Inida or China.

It is not a career (in the UK) for anyone considering it.

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N2

Dyson off shore?

I think it was the shiny arses on the town council who refused PP to expand so he upped stumps & moved elsewhere.

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WTF?

"NAMED AFTER THE QUEEN"

A "Brenda"?

</Private_Eye>

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Pointless

There are already loads of awards for engineering. How many people have heard of the British Engineering Excellence Awards, the MacRobert Award or the James Watt International Gold Medal?

I doubt even a million quid is enough to get a decent headline outside of the trade press.

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We have a worthy winner

I assume Lester is a shoo-in for the first prize in that he showed all the qualities of the very finest of British engineering - beer, creative thinking, bodging and more beer.

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Anonymous Coward

a mistake

I think it was a mistake naming it after the queen. There are a lot of people who wouldn't want an award, that associated them with her, but engineering trancends politics.

Britain has had a multitude of engineers throughout history, each of whom would have garnered more universal respect than some woman in London with an inherited title.

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No Shit Politicians

David Cameron..

"For too long Britain's economy has been over-reliant on consumer debt and financial services. We want to rebalance the economy so that Britain makes things again - high-skilled, high-value manufacturing and engineering should be a central part of our long-term future."

Well... that statement just fucked the economy. Fucking Tory Twat. Has Thatchers tit finally dried up?

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Wrong Title and not enough respect to the title Engineer

Two points here

First is that the term 'Engineer' is hopelessly mis-used.

Too many people call themselves engineers when they have no right to do so.

Those people at Microsoft don't help matters by creating those pesky MCSE courses either.

I'm sorry but that particular qualification means, at best, you can call yourself a technician. Not an engineer.

To be an engineer you need to have, at least, a bachelors degree in an suitable subject, an appropriate level of experience and pass the entry requirements for one of the accredited institutions such as the IMechE.

IIRC they actually have recently increased the requirements from Bachelors degree to Masters for all new entrants.

So anything that helps bring back the prestige to a title that, in terms of study, is equivalent to that of a Doctor or Barrister.

Second point is that getting the Queen to head up the prize is absolutely ridiculous, what connection has she ever had to engineering other than possibly opening a few factories?

A more appropriate choice would have been Sir Joseph Whitworth who pioneered the idea of standards in engineering. Specifically with regards to screw threads. This development meant that items could be designed in different factories and assembled in remote locations safe in the knowledge that it would all fit together.

Something that is seen today in every industry. Think back to the RFCs or the development of standard PC architecture in recent years.

Arguably Joseph Whitworth was the giant upon whose shoulders Brunel rode because the rapid expansion of the railways, bridges and iron clad ships would not have been possible without the work performed by Whitworth.

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Politicians do not understand the great worth of engineers in the UK

I became aware that politicians and Downing Street do not comprehend the great worth to the nation of Engineers several years ago. To see the prime minister, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband unveiling the £1 million prize for The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is sheer hypocrisy based upon first-hand experience on the part of our politicians.

I say this because it is a fact that a British citizen and a little old white haired great-grandfather figure now deceased and hardly known in the United Kingdom, even though he did most of his revolutionary engineering work there, was not seen fit to be knighted by our politicians in 2000. To put this person into perspective, this solitary engineer literally revolutionised engineering sciences throughout the world and where his great work has now entered into most of the sciences, saving countless lives in the process every day. His name was the late Professor Dr (mult.) John Argyris, the modern inventor of the Finite Element Method and where Professor Ray Clough, regarded as the most eminent structural engineer in the USA stated this in his 1960 publication and where he first coined the phrase Finite Element Method. Indeed Clough stated in his ground breaking publication that it was the Argyris Method’, ceding the FEM to Argyris in perpetuity. But to put Argyris into perspective the following world changing events and engineering feats amongst a few would not have happened including the 1969 moon landing, the determination that the ‘shuttle’ would be safe upon re-entry and where planes, cars, dams, trains and buildings etc would not be as safe as they are today. Indeed Argyris’s work has most probably saved tens of millions of lives indirectly over the last 50 years through his unparalleled research work.

But the greatest reason why Argyris should have been knighted by our politicians is because in 1943 after the British airlifted him from Germany via Lisbon, he single-handily determined at the Royal Aeronautical Society (working then for the British Government) that our aircraft design data sheets had up to 80% faults in their structural design. In this respect the Establishment (non-engineers who thought that Argyris was trying to destroy them) did not believe him and it was only because our aircraft industry at the time said that Argyris was right that they were eventually overturned. One has therefore to put this ‘single’ enormous engineering design feat into perspective also. How many allied lives were saved by our planes being far safer considering that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of allied paratroopers alone landed safely on mainland Europe before and after D-Day it has to be asked? Indeed if we had continued to send highly defective aircraft to liberate Europe, how many would have been killed by faulty engineering than Nazi bullets it has to be asked? But again, in 2000 the political Establishment refused to Knight him even though he had since the end of WW2 developed the greatest design invention in the history of global engineering. Therefore not until politicians really understand the worth of engineers what they say and do will be just mere words and a complete political charade.

Argyris did of course receive the highest national engineering awards from 17 nations, so what did they see that our politicians did not?

Dr David Hill

World Innovation Foundation

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