Select Committee Press Release

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    *** Embargoed until 00.01 Friday 27 March 2009 ***

 27 March 2009

No clear strategy and a lack of expertise: MPs critical of Government engineering policy

The Government lacks sufficient in-house engineering expertise to exploit fully the UK’s world-class engineering base, warns a report published today by the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee.

The report, Engineering: turning ideas into reality, also says the Government is failing to seek timely engineering advice and lacks detailed strategic planning for engineering policy.

More trained and experienced engineers are needed at all levels of the civil service. The report says many officials do not have adequate knowledge of the sector to decide who to seek advice from and, crucially, when to ask for it.

The Committee was shocked to discover that engineering advice was absent, or barely featured, in the formulation of key Government policies, including eco-towns, renewable energy and large IT projects. Engineering advice should be sought early, before policy is agreed.

Each major engineering project should have a detailed roadmap as a matter of course. Wider use by departments of the Science and Engineering Fast Stream is also required, and training should be prioritised to ensure civil servants know when to seek engineering advice.

More efficient management of engineering policy across departments is needed. The Committee recommends a reorganisation of advisory structures, including the creation of a Government Chief Engineer.

The Committee says significant skills shortages could have a serious impact on the Government’s plans to build new nuclear power stations within ten years. There is no clear and detailed plan for delivering the next generation of power stations. A master roadmap for delivery of nuclear new build is essential and it must address the issue of skills capacity.

The report says that, given the urgent need to tackle climate change, the Government would be negligent not to consider the potential of geo-engineering technologies as a ‘plan B’ to the ‘plan A’ of mitigation and adaptation. It calls on the Government to establish a clear view on the matter.

The Government should also revise its support structures for fledgling industries, such as plastic electronics, in order to exploit the potential for economic return.

Chairman of the Committee, Phil Willis MP, said: “Engineering is one of the UK’s great strengths. While we’ve been critical about aspects of Government policy and called for significant changes to be made, we should not forget the positives. Our engineering research base is one of the best in the world and our engineers continue to be sought after to lead on prestigious global projects. The Government is making efforts to improve the recognition of the engineering community. And it has become clear to us just how vital the contribution of the engineering community is to tackling the global challenges we face.”



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