Press release

Physicist Brian Cox backs new campaign to promote engineering to young people

16 March 2016

“Engineers are ‘rocks stars’ – without them we’d still be living in a cave.”

Professor Brian Cox OBE is supporting a call from the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) President, Naomi Climer, to help attract more young people into engineering careers by affording engineers in the UK the ‘rock star’ kudos they enjoy in California.

The call coincides with the start of the Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair today, and aims to convince British engineers and scientists to stop being shy about what they do – and to get out there and show people, particularly the next generation, how engineering and science make the world a better place.

Naomi Climer is the IET’s first female president in its 144-year history, and was former President of Sony’s new global division, Media Cloud Services, in California. Her experience of working in California was that engineers were seen as responsible for some of the world’s most exciting innovations, from the internet to 3-D printing – and given ‘rock star’ status as a result. She wants to tackle the UK’s engineering image problem, which is widely perceived as the reason why low numbers of young people are going into engineering, by encouraging engineers and scientists to aspire to the same heights.

Brian Cox said: “In California the universities and big-name companies have been incredibly successful in building up a culture that celebrates engineers who have great ideas, come up with new inventions and change things for the better. Ironically, we used to be pretty adept at this too. Back in the 19th Century, Michael Faraday, the British chemist and physicist whose work led directly to the modern electric motor, generator and transformer, and Humphrey Davy, the Cornish chemist and inventor who discovered calcium, potassium and sodium, were well known for their world acclaimed lectures at the Royal Institution. But since then we seem to have grown more reticent about being evangelists for science and engineering.

“British engineers – and scientists – sometimes seem to see shouting about what we’re doing as a bit vulgar and not terribly British – instead of recognising that they need to tell people that we are making the world a better place through science and engineering.”

IET President, Naomi Climer, said: “It’s great that Brian is supporting our campaign – and I hope that other British engineers and scientists will do the same. If we want to attract a new generation of engineers who can really deliver on the UK’s engineering and technology potential, making engineering a career that is seen as cool, exciting and ‘the place to be’ is absolutely essential.”

“The UK may not be the birthplace of the likes of Google and SpaceX, but we do have an amazing heritage of technology innovation – and we have every chance of punching above our weight in the future if we can continue to play on our classic British strengths of coming up with new ideas, tackling problems in new ways and having highly trained and talented engineers with a world class reputation.

“Now we just need to get better at making the British public – and particularly young people – more aware of what we do and how influential it is on all their lives.”

According to EngineeringUK’s 2016 The State of Engineering report, the UK will need 182,000 people with engineering skills each year to 2022.

Media enquiries to:

Robert Beahan, External Communications Manager
T: +44 (0)1438 767336
M: +44 (0)7595 400912
E: rbeahan@theiet.org

Rebecca Gillick, Communications Executive
T: +44 (0)1438 765 618
M: +44 (0)7725 498 129
E: rgillick@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest engineering institutions with over 167,000 members in 150 countries. It is also the most interdisciplinary – to reflect the increasingly diverse nature of engineering in the 21st century. Energy, transport, manufacturing, information and communications, and the built environment: the IET covers them all.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world by inspiring, informing and influencing our members, engineers and technicians, and all those who are touched by, or touch, the work of engineers.
  • We want to build the profile of engineering and change outdated perceptions about engineering in order to tackle the skills gap. This includes encouraging more women to become engineers and growing the number of engineering apprentices.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org
  • Follow the IET on Twitter.