Policy: engineering skills, energy and telecoms

4 December 2013
IET Communications team
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Group outside 11 Downing Street
The IET's Nigel Fine joins Matthew Hancock MP and others for the launch of the latest EngineeringUK report..

Monthly policy highlights from the IET.

The past month has been a very busy and productive one for the IET Policy team. There have been a number of high-profile events at which the IET has raised important engineering policy issues with key policy makers and important industry stakeholders, with over 70 MPs attending recent events.


Perkins’ Review of Engineering Skills

Professor John Perkins, chief scientific advisor to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), has published his long awaited Review of Engineering Skills. The report sets out recommendations for the Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs) to work with industry and government to overcome predicted skills shortages and skills gaps in the engineering sector. The IET’s Stephanie Fernandes, who was seconded to BIS to work on the report, explains its importance in this video. Stephanie will continue to work with BIS for three months to help implement the recommendations of the report - a great opportunity for the IET to inform how the industry responds to the findings.

IET chief executive Nigel Fine said in response to the report: “We welcome the Perkins’ Review: its recommendations offer a clear way forward to close the engineering skills gap. The IET has worked for many years to highlight to policy makers, academia and employers that this skills gap needs urgent attention, so it’s heartening that the Review focuses on galvanising all these parties into action to deliver its recommendations.”

In the run up to the publication of the Perkins’ Review, the IET asked UK MPs to sign a parliamentary pledge to support young engineers, especially women, in their constituencies. For more information on this event, please see this earlier Member News story.


Demand-Attentive Networks at the House of Lords

On 27 November, the IET’s Communications Policy Panel launched a new thought-leading concept, Demand-Attentive Networks (DANs), to tackle the growing strain on the UK’s existing telecoms networks.

The event attracted a wide range of MPs, Lords and industry leaders, brought together by the IET to discuss the implications of this ground-breaking new concept, and the opportunity it presents for the UK to take the lead in setting the agenda for future telecoms and mobile networks.

Parliamentarians in attendance included Neil Carmichael MP, Andrew Miller MP, Angela Smith MP and Peter Luff MP.

DANs will anticipate and respond rapidly to the user’s needs as they arise, as a quicker and more affordable option to simply increasing bandwidth across networks.

A DAN is not a specific technology, but an architectural approach to create a network that recognises and responds to the demands users and applications place on it, to optimise the allocation of network resources through a series of smart terminal devices. By efficiently allocating resources, a DAN should be able to provide the impression of limitless bandwidth and ensure that user perception of network performance is ‘always sufficient’.

Professor Will Stewart, chair of the IET Communications Policy Panel, said: “As the use of smart devices has grown so has our desire to receive instant data and communications. However, we are reaching a tipping point and we must act now and put in place radical solutions for the future otherwise the UK is at risk of losing its leading position. 

“Demand-Attentive Networks have the potential for the UK to innovate by building the next generation high performance network infrastructure in an affordable manner that satisfies user demand, whilst keeping the digital economy running.”

The IET’s DAN report is available online.


Power Network Joint Vision report launch          

The beginning of December will see a ground-breaking report launch from the IET’s Power Network Joint Vision (PNJV) group, advocating a new whole-system approach to Britain’s electricity network. The report, ‘Electriciy Network: Handling a Shock to the System’, will challenge the power industry to tackle the transformational changes ahead for the UK’s power network.

The PNJV group was established to come up with fresh and independent thinking that breaks down barriers and silos. Over the past year it has been working with a diverse group of experts from the UK’s leading distribution and transmission companies, academia, energy consultancies, government and energy regulator to identify the challenges facing the electricity network today and into the future. The UK’s electricity network will change unrecognisably over the next 20 years and there are many important decisions that need to be taken that require a whole-system approach.

PNJV chair and IET Fellow Dr Simon Harrison said: “Britain’s electricity sector is grappling with the triple challenges of decarbonisation, maintaining security of supply, and affordability to customers. The impact of future changes has potentially profound impacts on networks and on the electricity system as a whole.

“We have an opportunity to act in ways which reduce cost and create worldwide opportunity for innovation and UK leadership. The scale and complexity of the challenges ahead is new, and potentially even greater than when the national grid was first developed in the 1930s. Fresh thinking is needed.”

You can find a copy of the report online from 6pm on 4 December 2013. If you have any feedback, please email energy@theiet.org.


Launch of the EngineeringUK 2014 report

IET chief executive Nigel Fine attended the launch of the annual EngineeringUK report at 11 Downing Street on Monday, 2 December.

The report provides the science and engineering community with a yearly outlook on the engineering profession’s contribution to the UK economy. Minister for skills and enterprise Matthew Hancock MP was also in attendance.

You can find out more in this story from E&T.


Other news

The IET was invited to join a roundtable organised by BIS on the topic of the graduate take-up of computer science. Alan Berry from the IET Policy team represented the Institution, and emphasised the need for more companies to offer work placements for computer science undergraduates.

Mr Peter Luff MP asked a question in Parliament quoting the findings of the IET 2013 Skills and Demand in Industry survey.

Paul Davies, IET head of policy, and Professor Colin Davis from the IET Manufacturing Policy Panel met with Chris White MP, chair of the All Party Manufacturing Group (APMG) to discuss how the IET might use its regional manufacturing groups to help with future APMG inquiries.