Is Britain Still A Centre of Innovation For Engineering?

The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Britain has been at the forefront of some of the most important developments in engineering history, from tunnel building to the suspension bridge, the steam engine to radio. In recent decades, it has seen its star fall as countries like Germany and Japan have taken the lead, but British innovation remains strong, and if you’re thinking about a career in engineering, it’s a great place to be.

Three leading sectors

As in every industry, some sectors are stronger than others. These are three of the most interesting areas of engineering in which to get involved in Britain.

  • Renewable energy – With a lot of money now going into projects aimed at harvesting wind, solar, tidal and biomass energy, this is an exciting area in which to work. It is attracting both state and private interest, and companies are also looking at possibilities around renewable heat and transport. Offshore wind is the strongest area, with large new North Sea wind farms currently in development.
  • Automotive engineering – After a long slow period, the British automotive industry is now on the rise, with Rolls Royce, Jaguar and the BMW group all turning healthy profits. A rapidly changing industry, with safety and environmental concerns as well as advancing computer technology all reshaping what consumers want, means there are lots of opportunities for innovative engineers.
  • Aerospace engineering – Prospering even during the recession, the UK’s aerospace industry has remained buoyant, with Airbus and BAE systems both taking on more engineering staff whilst Boeing and Thales Group also offer opportunities. The sector’s strength lies in its ability to produce almost every component the industry needs, and recent government help to strengthen the supply chain is enabling it to build in still more resilience. 

Case study: Meggitt

Some of Britain’s strongest engineering companies work across a number of different sectors, maximising their crossover potential, and Meggitt is an example of this. Emerging from the merger of a machine tool business with a general engineering company in the 1960s, it went from strength to strength and is now a key player in the aerospace and energy sectors, with an impressive reputation for developing sensory systems. In December last year, it won something of a coup by persuading Sir Nigel Rudd to head up its defence and aerospace board. Sir Nigel has now joined the board at Meggitt and has boosted expectations of the company even further.

The future of British engineering

Engineering is currently worth £1.17tn to the British economy, but it is 9% ahead of where it was at the start of the recession. The only real worry in the industry is that it’s growing faster than the supply of new talent can keep up, so if you’re an ambitious young engineer willing to work hard, your country needs you! Female engineers, who currently make up only 36% of the workforce, are in particular demand as companies aim to be more equal. The world is changing, and it’s today’s young engineers who will develop the systems and build the wonders that will thrill visitors to Britain in the future.


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