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Britain's £1m engineering competition opens

5 Mar 14  | Engineering

Nominations have begun for entries into the £1m Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering competition, which aims to identify and celebrate the latest innovations in the sector - whilst inspiring a new generation to enter the field.

Launched in 2011, this is the second time the competition, which looks for inventions that have delivered global benefits to humanity, has been run.

The inaugural title was actually shared by five individual internet pioneers, with the Queen presenting the prize to Sir Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the World Wide Web.

The foundation that sponsors the event is chaired by former BP chairman Lord Browne of Madingley, who remarked that he hoped the prize would help people to abandon their prejudices about engineering - meaning that the judges would have to come to it with open minds.

“We have been given a clean sheet of paper. The internet was a great invention but there are so many more inventions that benefit humanity,” he said, citing CAT scans, genetic engineering and autonomous vehicles. “We will never run out of great ideas.”

Lord Browne commented that areas that have the potential to produce the winner include software, which he acknowledged is “changing the way we live our lives”, as well as the application of medical and natural engineering.

Lord Browne said although it is administered in the UK, the Queen Elizabeth Prize is a truly worldwide event, with lofty ambitions of the event gaining equal standing as the Nobel awards.

“Nominations can be made from the public, industry, universities, businesses, researchers… We want to inspire all people to get into engineering.”

He is particularly keen to use the prize to attract more women into the field.

“From large-scale infrastructure to medical technology, engineers’ achievements transform every aspect of our daily lives,” he said. “Our research shows that parents are reluctant for their daughters to enter the field of engineering, believing that other subjects offer them better opportunities.

“The Queen Elizabeth Prize aims to make heroes and heroines of the engineers who are behind the world’s greatest innovations, demonstrating that engineering can be a rich and rewarding career to both men and women.”

To make the prize more accessible to those who might not otherwise take an interest, the judging panel includes a notable celebrity. Professor Brian Cox, The former pop musician turned physicist whose television series on physics and astronomy have achieved mainstream popularity and caught the imagination of young people, will be one of the star panelists.

With the UK facing an acute shortage of engineers - studies have shown 1m more are needed in this country over the next five years, but only a fraction of that number are in the pipeline - the prize has the potential to provide Britain with a home-grown champion, especially if the winner is female.

Lord Browne added: “In the US you have engineering and science companies led by women - such as GM and IBM - and we need that here in Britain.”

The prize is sponsored by BAE Systems, BG Group, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Shell, Siemens, Sony, Tata and Toshiba.
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