This morning, we supported the launch of the nomination phase of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a new £1 million award for the individual or team responsible for the greatest engineering breakthrough, worldwide.
The site went live at around 7am this morning and by 7.30am, Professor Brian Cox and Dr Eleanor Stride were in the BBC studios explaining to BBC Breakfast and Radio Five Live why engineering had a fundamental role to play in shaping the future of the UK economy and addressing many of the world’s biggest challenges. Meanwhile, Chairman of Trustees Lord Browne appeared on the Today Programme and penned an op-ed for BBC Online, ensuring that the British breakfast agenda belonged to engineering. Articles, interviews and retweets are still pouring in, but what has been most interesting at this early stage, is how uncontroversial the agenda underlying the prize is.
Of course, we weren’t expecting the prize itself to be controversial – a prize celebrating human ingenuity is about as unalloyed a good as it’s possible to find in PR – but we anticipated that the media might challenge the assertion that Britain could and should seek to grow its engineering base and recruit 2 million more engineers. For a country where the notion that we might need an “industrial policy” is still the subject of heated debate and the idea of “picking winners” is often sniffed at, the reaction to the prize this morning suggests that the argument that engineering and industry have a vital role to play in rebalancing the UK economy has been won.