“This prize will put on the world stage the engineers and engineering feats that are too often only recognised by our own industry,” he said. “It is further evidence that the importance of engineering to our society - particularly in driving economic growth - is recognised not only by the Government, but across the political spectrum. We hope this prize will excite and inspire the next generation of engineers and encourage them to look at engineering as the ‘career of choice’ – one that truly carries the potential to change the world.”
The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has cross-party support and was launched yesterday by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband. Its mission is to identify and celebrate an outstanding advance in engineering that has created significant benefit to humanity. The £1m prize will be awarded biennially to an individual or team of up to three people, of any nationality, directly responsible for advancing the application of engineering knowledge.
The launch of a new £1m prize gives could create a major shift in public perception of engineering, said Royal Academy of Engineering president Sir John Parker, who is a trustee of the Prize Foundation. "This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a major shift in public perception of engineering,” he said. “The products of engineering are everywhere, but too often the engineering and engineers behind even the most brilliant innovations remain hidden from public view. So the sheer excitement and creativity of professional engineering often do not get recognised, let alone celebrated.”
Speaking at the launch event, prime minister David Cameron said: “I am delighted that the Queen has put her name to this prestigious prize, which I hope will carry the same stature as the Nobel Prizes and I want to thank the Royal Academy of Engineering and the prize sponsors for making this happen.
"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. I hope this prize will go some way to inspire and excite young people about engineering, so that they dream of becoming engineers as they once did in the age of Stephenson and Brunel."
The Royal Academy of Engineering said that the prize is the result of a growing realisation in the worlds of business, engineering and policy of the need for a pioneering initiative based in the UK to focus attention on engineering worldwide. A number of major engineering companies have donated to an endowment fund, which is being managed by an independent charitable trust, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, chaired by Lord Browne of Madingley. The Royal Academy of Engineering will deliver the prize on behalf of the trust.
As well as the search for the winner, the prize will provide a high-profile, global communications platform to explore the breadth, creativity and impact of engineering of all kinds around the world.
Lord Browne said: "Engineering underpins every aspect of our lives. As the bridge between scientific discovery and commercial application, engineering feeds and clothes us, and enables us to work, travel and communicate. But too often the engineers behind the most brilliant innovations remain hidden. The Queen Elizabeth Prize aims to change that. It will celebrate, on an international scale, the very best engineering in the world. I believe that this prize will inspire the public, especially young people, with a sense of the excitement and the importance of engineering."
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: "This prize flies in the face of the myth that engineering is a part of Britain's past. It's true that we have a proud record - a nation historically at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs and the vanguard of design. But engineering is just as much a part of our future - at the heart of a new economy driven by invention and innovation. The Queen Elizabeth Prize will draw the eyes of the engineering world to Britain. We are bringing engineering home.”
Opposition leader Ed Miliband said: "Britain has been home to some of the world's great engineering feats, from the Iron Bridge in Telford to British involvement in mapping the human genome. But we now face huge global challenges in the future ranging from climate change and famine to an ageing population in the West. Just as engineering has helped us meet the big challenges in the past, it will be engineering that helps us meet these new challenges."
Tata Consultancy Services and Tata Steel are among the prize donors. Tata Group chairman Ratan Naval Tata said: “The International Engineering Prize is intended to provide an incentive and recognition to individuals and companies engaged in engineering and manufacturing. I commend the UK government and the companies who have contributed to the prize’s endowment and am confident that the prize will contribute to the rejuvenation of the manufacturing industry in the UK.”
The international judging panel will be appointed in February, when the call for nominations will be issued. Nominations will close in Jul and the first prize winner will be announced in December 2012, with a major award event held in spring 2013.