Speaking at an Engineering the Future fringe event at the Labour Party Conference, Lord Drayson, minister for science and innovation called for the equivalent of chief technology officers in Government Departments.
Lord Drayson told delegates: "It is engineers and technologists that will get this country back on track. To achieve this and to implement government priorities effectively and strategically, we need more technological knowledge within the government. We need the equivalent of chief technology officers within government departments.
Science, technology and engineering represent Britain's ‘big three' for the future. They are essential to our economic growth and to maintaining our quality of life as we tackle the major challenges like climate change. We cannot build for the future without world -class engineers."
The minister's comments were warmly received by the audience of science, engineering, education, business and industry representatives who agreed with the minister that the need was not simply for advice but for expert representatives who could help implement new engineering technologies and projects in practice.
Jonathan Flint, chief executive of Oxford Instruments, defined engineering as a discipline that benefits society while generating wealth. Calling for a rethink of the place of engineers in corporate hierarchies, he pointed out that engineers needed to acquire management and communications skills to complement their highly-valued numeracy and attention to detail. "Too often, engineers can limit their opportunities. We want to see more of them with the management training that will put them on boards of companies," he said.
Dr Hanna Sykulska-Lawrence, current IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year", wanted to see more young people considering a career in engineering and called on Government to help raise the profile of the profession.
Philip Greenish, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: "Lord Drayson's recognition of science, technology and engineering as Britain's ‘big three for the tuture' is excellent news, as is his acknowledgement that there should be Chief Technology Officers in Government Departments. The next step is to ensure that practical steps are taken to follow up on these bold new proposals. Government, business and industry, education providers and the engineering community must all now step up to the task of actually making things happen."