Report outlines Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges

Europe at night, view from space

A new report published today sets out the long-term vision for how engineering research will help to tackle key challenges.

In the UK, engineers have long been at the heart of technological revolutions and to this day continue to transform the way that we live our lives.

The publication of Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges (TERC) follows extensive engagement with the UK’s engineering community and aims to inform and inspire future strategy and solutions.

Collective experience and knowledge

TERC Co-Chair Dr Peter Bonfield OBE, FREng, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of Westminster, said:

Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges identifies the most important questions and greatest challenges facing engineering in the future, and how we can help solve them by embracing and implementing the clear recommendations made in this report.

Informed by our communities’ collective experience and knowledge, it outlines the most pressing high-level priorities, such as promoting inclusive engineering and equipping our engineers with the new knowledge and insights they need to make the world a better place.

Inspiring and informative

TERC Co-Chair Professor Dame Helen Atkinson, DBE, FREng, Pro-Vice Chancellor, School of Aerospace, Transport Systems and Manufacturing, at Cranfield University said:

This report is the result of sustained engagement and listening to a diverse range of communities, work which has been inspiring and informative in equal measure.

The cross-cutting themes and technological challenges identified outline the ambition of our collective vision, in setting out how harnessing the UK’s engineering strengths and talent will deliver benefits for us all.

New perspectives

The report was facilitated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, the main UK funder of engineering research.

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said:

It has been great to see the community connect and collaborate to identify the key challenges for future engineering.

The new perspectives that have been offered have been refreshing and have truly shaped our thinking in the development of this report. We are committed to working with the engineering community to realise their recommendations.

Engineering skills are essential to deliver the innovation and new technologies required to deliver social and economic success across the UK.

Extensive engagement

The engagement to produce this report, which involved workshops, roundtable meetings and written contributions, was one of the largest engagement exercises conducted across the UK’s engineering research community.

This engagement helped to identify the most pressing actions and recommendations for funders, professional bodies and the wider community:

  • promoting inclusive engineering outcomes for all
  • strengthening mechanisms to facilitate and fund multi- and inter-disciplinary research
  • ‘re-engineering’ the discipline of engineering, bringing knowledge from other disciplines to bear to prepare young engineers to tackle future challenges
  • encouraging diverse, agile and impactful skills
  • convening and connecting with the professional engineering community to enhance impact
  • inspiring the next generation of engineers.

Cross-cutting themes

The report identifies a number of broad cross-cutting themes which engineering will play a crucial role in addressing:

  • achieving net zero and sustainability
  • faster digital design
  • greater access and use of data
  • increasing human resilience
  • understanding complex systems
  • harnessing disruptive, emerging technologies
  • underpinning tools and techniques.

It also explores the ambitious technological challenges for the next 10 to 15 years which engineering research will be crucial to addressing:

  • space
  • transportation systems
  • materials
  • health and wellbeing
  • robotics and artificial intelligence
  • responsible engineering
  • nature-based engineering
  • global engineering solutions.

Continuing community engagement, such as workshops to discuss the report and its recommendations, will take place later in the year.

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