Young engineers plea

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DEPUTY Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg has expressed his hope that “as many little boys and girls” in Sheffield who dream of being on X-Factor or playing in the cup final will one day have an ambition to become engineers.

He highlighted the tradition of engineering in the city during a speech at the London launch of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, a global award to celebrate outstanding advances in engineering that have created significant benefit to humanity. With a £1m prize, it is supported by the Government and Opposition.

Mr Clegg said: “My feeling is that what is so significant about this prize is it challenges us to change our self-perception as a country. For too long, there has been this kind of hidden assumption that we are an island of accountants and lawyers, that the Germans and the Koreans and others – that they excel in engineering, but we don’t. I think we have to stop talking ourselves down.

“We are a great engineering nation, and we are a nation of great engineers, and we should celebrate that. We are still one of the world’s biggest manufacturers. We still are only second to the United States in having the greatest number of top-class universities. We may be funding only 3% of research, but account for 11% of citations.”

Examples of the skills of British scientists included those taking the principles of self-healing in nature and applying them to aircraft, so that damaged aircraft can start to repair themselves.

British researchers are developing ideas for a hybrid airship which will be able to land anywhere and in any weather, including on water, and developing degradable plastics which can be compost with garden waste. Ninety per cent of the world’s mobile handsets use technology from British-based ARM.

“These are things we should be really, really proud of. These are things that we should promote and celebrate. They revolutionise everyday life for millions of people around the world,” said Mr Clegg

“We are brilliant at engineering. This is especially important at a time when we are trying to rebalance our economy away from an over-reliance on one sector, financial services, in one place, the City of London, to a more sustainable economy where different sectors and different parts of the country are supported.”

Mr Clegg added: “I feel that, obviously, very strongly as a MP from Sheffield, a city with this fantastic heritage and history and tradition of engineering. So I hope in future that little boys and girls in Sheffield and across the country, when they dream of wanting to be finalists on the X-Factor, or receive an Oscar, or play in the FA Cup final, that there will be just as many little boys and girls who will be dreaming of winning the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.”