The Academy says the report aims to enhance understanding of engineering’s role across the UK economy, which impacts multiple sectors – from manufacturing, software and R&D, to engineers in non-engineering industries like financial services and media. It explained: “The new data is intended as a tool to inform future policy decisions on how to share engineering’s benefits across society, and help the UK to achieve its engineering, science and technology ambitions.”
The report’s interactive dashboard ‘explores, for the first time, how much, what type, where, and in what context, engineering is happening, and enables places to understand the role engineering could play in their local economies’. The Academy said: “While many of the strongest local engineering economies generating high value can be found in the South East, there are also several places across the Midlands, the North West, and Scotland, performing above average, and high-value hidden gems to be found in South Derbyshire, North Warwickshire, and Ribble Valley.”
While the new data paints a detailed picture of the differences between engineering in different regions, some broad conclusions about addressing regional imbalances in engineering’s contribution to the UK economy can be drawn:
Connections between city centre R&D activity and engineering in surrounding city regions and towns encourage high-value engineering and innovation. These benefits can be maximised by improving connectivity between city centres and ‘near city’ regions and towns, but also between cities and rural areas, ‘where pathways that connect innovation are less obvious’.
Targeted Government and local authority support should be used ‘to maximise the potential of areas with highly specialised industrial concentrations where there are weaker economic and enterprise environments, that are frequently, though not exclusively, in coastal town communities’.
Places with a lot of applied engineering jobs could be vulnerable to automation taking over technical production and standardised operation roles. Government and business will need to ensure new technologies provide pathways to create new jobs and enhance employment opportunities.
Additional findings include:
The engineering economy contributes approximately £646 billion direct Gross Value Added annually to the wider UK economy.
Engineering is ‘pivotal’ in the UK’s emerging economy – engineering businesses account for the majority of businesses in 80% of emerging economy sectors.
Engineering jobs encompass a wide range of sectors and activities, and not all of these are for engineers – of the 8.1 million people in the UK employed by the engineering economy, 5.7 million (70%) are engineers, and 2.4 million work in a non-engineering role in an engineering business.
Professor Sir Jim McDonald FREng, FRSE (pictured), President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Engineering is at the core of the UK’s industrial DNA – it is no wonder we have a proud history of innovation. This snapshot of the current engineering landscape shows engineers are drivers of economic opportunity – from R&D to delivering products and services that generate jobs, drive our economy, and create value for society. The UK simply cannot become a science and technology superpower without first becoming an engineering superpower. Without a place-based approach to engineering policy, the UK risks maintaining the status quo that currently hinders the potential of its economy – with regional imbalance, city centres disconnected from surrounding areas, and untapped capacity for innovation and production.”