As the Internet of Things gives way to the Internet of Everything and society becomes more and more connected, Britain is recovering the place it once had at the forefront of technological development. Many of the current technologies that drive our economy and form the cornerstones of our society developed from British inventions, and after long years during which the market was dominated by Germany, the US and Japan, Brits are now re-engaging with them and showing the same talent for innovation.
Great British inventions
Though at its most prolific during the Industrial Revolution, producing key technologies such as the steam engine, the industrial loom and the suspension bridge, British talent also gave us some of the defining technologies of the 20th century. Television, the telephone, the electric motor, the jet engine, even the first computer were British. More recently, it has given us digital radio and the enormously successful iPod. British scientists also developed graphene, considered by many to be one of the most exciting materials to be working with and likely to lead to significant developments across a wide range of product types. As campaigns are now underway to encourage more young people, especially girls, to take up engineering, the future for the sector is looking bright.
The recent news that Sir Nigel Rudd is to join Meggitt is exciting news for UK engineering. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the founder of Williams Holdings, he came up through finance and works for the CBI and Financial Reporting Council. He has been knighted for services to manufacturing and has had a longstanding interest in technology and new products, as evidenced by his time as Chair of Pilkington and Pendragon. Now he’s poised to help aeronautics giant Meggitt meet the challenges of catering to an ever more demanding market.
Driven by consumers
A few happy accidents aside, invention generally stems from demand, and British engineers are being kept on their toes by a public with a big appetite for the latest technology. According to Ofcom, British consumers have been first in line to get broadband, digital TV and assorted kinds of mobile service. They’re also savvy about what they buy and are always on the lookout for a good deal, so products with advanced features or a high number of features have much stronger appeal, provided that the price is good. This means there’s an instant market for well-developed ideas and a strong incentive for smart young people to take up engineering careers.
A welcoming industry
In recognition of the opportunities the developing market now offers, large engineering firms are now working hard to attract and nurture talent. There have never been as many diverse specialisms available within it and, whilst this can complicate recruitment, it affords opportunities for designers to pursue the directions that appeal to them most and really maximise their potential. By creating opportunity for them, Britain can secure its future in the industry.