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Engineers should get more ‘arty’

06 November 2014


Engineers should embrace the arts, often key to creativity and an important component of innovation, something that is crucial in creating new products and boosting our future economic competitiveness.

This is according to Sir John O'Reilly who will give the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Mountbatten Memorial Lecture on 20 November 2014.  

His lecture, entitled “Full STEAM ahead for growth: knowledge, innovation and industrial strategy” will argue that it is vitally important to recognise the role of the arts, notably design and aesthetics in creativity and critical thinking. This is hugely relevant when it comes to conceiving people-centred solutions or innovations.

Sir John said: “We depend on engineering and technology for pretty much everything these days. For example in just the IT area with have the likes of internet shopping; computer-supported air traffic control; smartphones for business and friends; tablets for watching TV and so forth.

“In all of these areas, the ability to innovate is crucial for success. We often - rightly - hear of the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) but we need to ensure we don’t miss a trick by not giving due weight also to the arts.

“Engineering and technology is an increasingly diverse and creative domain - hence STEAM. When you bring in the arts you include some important people-centric aspects that can be crucial to success: in practical use and in the market.”

And there are some outstanding examples where art and design have been embraced to good effect. Just one such is Dyson, the British technology company that designs and manufactures a range of household appliances - a good example of a UK-based firm that has embraced the innovation that STEAM proposes.

For more information on the event, visit www.theiet.org/mountbatten.

Media enquiries to:

Hannah Kellett
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7738 602426
Email: HKellett@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

About the speaker: Sir John O’Reilly is Director General, Knowledge & Innovation at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Previously he was Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, a position he held from December 2006 - February 2013.

Prior to joining Cranfield he was Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). He has held academic appointments at Essex, Bangor, and UCL as well as positions in industry/government.

He is currently Chairman of NICC (Standards) Ltd and a Director of the ERA Foundation Ltd.

A Chartered Engineer, he is a Fellow and former member of Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering, an International Fellow of Académie Hassan II des Sciences et Techniques and of Academia das Ciencias de Lisbon, a former President and Honorary Fellow of the IET and a former President of EUREL, the Confederation of European Professional Electrical Engineering Societies.

He holds honorary doctorates / Fellowships from Essex, Bangor and UCL and is an Honorary Fellow of the IChemE.

Widely published, with over 350 research papers and three books, he was awarded the J J Thomson Medal of the IET for ‘distinguished contributions to electronic engineering’. He was awarded a knighthood for contributions to science in 2007.

In the wider international arena he Chairs the President’s Academic Advisory Committee of Khalifa University and is a Board Member of A*STAR, the Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore.