After attending The Manufacturer live launch at the Houses of Parliament this week and listening to Richard Noble OBE talk excitedly about the Bloodhound SSC project, it got me thinking...
I am always struck by the brilliance and passion of the many people I get to meet or listen to who work in the manufacturing and engineering sectors. The problem is, if you are not in a position to get to see or hear these people, i.e. you are not working or connected to the sector in some way, the chances are you have no idea of all the brilliant things going on in the UK.
A major challenge facing the sector is skills shortages and many children not choosing STEM subjects at school. Let’s be frank here, in order to choose any of these subjects at school there has got to be something that excites or influences a student to do so.
At The Manufacturers’ live launch last week, I learned how the Bloodhound SSC project came about: a project created to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists in order to inspire the entrepreneurs and leaders of the future.
It is an absolutely brilliant project if not slightly indulgent. It brings together schools, universities and industry in an exciting project at the same time as reminding the rest of the world that the UK is at the forefront of engineering.
So this led me to asking “what can we do as a country that mimics some of the brilliant aspects of the Bloodhound SSC project, but can be applied to real life issues?”.
By real-life issues, I am referring to Education, Housing, Health, Climate Change, growing populations and predicted food shortages, these are the ones that jump to the front of my mind.
Wouldn’t it be great if our government committed to funding projects through education and industry which not only inspired our scientists and engineers of the future but also tackled many of the issues we are facing, not only as a country but as a planet?
Encouraging students to choose STEM subjects is one way to increase the number of STEM graduates, but what if we asked the children and students in our classrooms whether they wanted to help create a new template for the town of the future. A town that generates its own energy, grows its own food, creates equal education opportunities for all, has zero homelessness, clean air to breath and an efficient and unburdened NHS. I am sure it sounds ridiculous but hopefully not impossible. I know we have had the Future of Cities project and the Future of skills and lifelong learning, but these findings are at a high level and do not necessarily influence students to make a particular career choice.
Theresa May has been left holding the Brexit baby and the only certainty over the next 10 years is that we are in for a bumpy unpredictable ride. We have a government which is guilty of short term thinking which has a negative knock on effect across businesses in the UK. Such projects as mentioned above incorporates the ten pillars of the latest industrial strategy, why should this be separate to education, housing and health?
Radical times call for radical action, let’s take this once in a lifetime opportunity to make the UK the world leaders in all that matters, education, food, energy, health and housing – can we do all of this whilst having the smallest possible impact on the planet? Is this what the 4th Industrial Revolution is all about?
Who knows, if we ventured into such an ambitious project as a nation, then we may have a hope of once again becoming a United Kingdom, creating a bigger, bolder nation where everyone can prosper.
Claire Lauder is Director of Manufacturing and Engineering