April 2015


In the last three months I have had the pleasure of visiting seven Branches of the Society — Gatwick, Heathrow, Loughborough, Cambridge, Farnborough, Yeovil and Preston — for their prestige Named Lectures.

On every visit I have been warmly welcomed and I have been impressed by three things: the quality of the speakers and the relevance of their topics; the commitment of the Branch Committee members; and the enthusiasm of the audiences. The lectures included the 60th Henson and Stringfellow Lecture at Yeovil, which is an example of the longevity of some of the Society’s Named Lectures. However, I also attended the inaugural Elfyn Richards Lecture at Loughborough, which shows that Branches continue to develop and enhance their programmes. I plan to visit another eight Branches before I relinquish the role of President and I wish that the schedules and my diary had allowed me to visit even more Branches during the year.

Recently I have also attended several events in London hosted by the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Aerospace Technology Institute that, in different but complementary ways, have promoted science, engineering and the aerospace industry.

I was particularly struck by the independent report on the economic impact of engineering in the UK* published on 2 March 2015 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSERC) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). While this report is clearly about engineering in the UK, I make no apology for mentioning it because I believe that the lessons probably apply to most economies around the world. Therefore, I would encourage engineers in particular, wherever they live, to read at least the summary document ‘Engineering for a successful nation’.

To quote from its introduction:

“Engineering is central to the well-being and economic development of every nation. Creative and dynamic, it evolves to meet the needs of human civilisation. Engineering is pervasive in our modern society, enabling every sector from communication and entertainment to finance and healthcare, as well as its more visible applications in construction, manufacturing and transport. Progress is driven, as it has always been, by human curiosity and experimentation but resources are finite and the art of engineering is to devise affordable solutions to problems.”

For those of us working to inspire the next generation of engineers I can think of no better point of departure.

* Assessing the economic returns of engineering research and postgraduate training in the UK, by the Technopolis Group, March 2015, published by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Air Cdre Bill Tyack