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Science and Technology - Minutes of EvidenceHC 1667
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Committee
ENGINEERING IN GOVERNMENT: FOLLOW-UP
Wednesday 7 December 2011
Chris Aylett and Philip Greenish
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 29
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Taken before the Science and Technology Committee
on Wednesday 7 December 2011
Andrew Miller (Chair)
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Chris Aylett, Chief Executive, Motorsport Industry Association, and Philip Greenish, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Engineering, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Gentlemen, I welcome you both here to our formal session. For the record, would you kindly introduce yourselves?
Philip Greenish: I am Philip Greenish. I am Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Chris Aylett: I am Chris Aylett, Chief Executive of the Motorsport Industry Association.
Q2 Chair: Mr Greenish, does the Government now see the Royal Academy as the first port of call for engineering advice?
Philip Greenish: In reasonably large measure, yes. If I can elaborate, since the Select Committee’s Report on "Engineering: Turning ideas into reality", we have seen quite a substantial change in how the Government looks to the engineering profession and, perhaps even more so, how the engineering profession organises itself so that it can support and respond to Government’s needs. At about the time that that report was being concluded, we set up two particular groups across the whole of the professional engineering community in order to provide that single point of entry for those in Government who wish to access engineering advice through the professional engineering community.
Perhaps for clarity, I should explain what we mean by the professional engineering community. There are 36 engineering institutions that are licensed to charter engineers and accredit engineering degree courses. Some of them are large, like the IET, which is the largest, with 160,000 to 170,000 members or so. At the bottom end of the scale, there are some small, very specialist, institutions that have value within their own niche. So there are 36 of them. There is the UK’s national academy of Engineering-ourselves. There are other bodies, such as the Engineering Council, which manages the licensing process, degree course accreditation and such like, and EngineeringUK, which is a body that is funded out of professional engineers’ subscriptions and works on behalf of us all to promote engineering widely. There are other associated organisations that we work with. It is quite evident to anybody that, when faced with this array of bodies, anyone in Government who did not know their way around it would find it extremely difficult. The National Academy of Engineering is part funded by Government and is the natural point of entry into the profession.
We called the two bodies we set up Engineering the Future, which is the entry point and the body for general policy advice and public affairs activities that we do jointly, and E4E, which means Education for Engineering, which we set up specifically to provide co-ordinated advice from the engineering profession on all education matters that are relevant to the formation of engineers.
In the last three to four years, those two bodies have started to work, I believe, very effectively and are being used by people in Government. The Academy is being used as the entry point through those mechanisms for advice.
Q3 Chair: You have heard me say before that it may be the existence of the 36 institutions that does not help engineering punch its weight in the public view. Where you have brought together these alliances, such as E4E and Engineering the Future, does the Royal Academy take the lead role?
Philip Greenish: Yes, we do. We are careful how we use the leadership term because these are all independent, self-governing institutions under their own charters. Some of them are large, well resourced and long standing. The Institution of Civil Engineers is nearly 200 years old. There is a very grand building just round the corner from here. It is a very substantial body, and it has substantial and established relationships with certain people in Government Departments, which is perfectly right, respectable and responsible. Our collective activity does not get in the way of those relationships where they are well formed.
Q4 Chair: Going back to the issue of the relationship with Government, can you give any examples of circumstances where the Government have consulted the Academy in a timely manner when policies are being developed?
Philip Greenish: Yes, I can. Infrastructure UK is a body set up within the Treasury by Government. From the outset, Infrastructure UK invited a substantial number of expert engineers to contribute to its work. The Academy helped to set that up. We have supported the work that they have been doing, including, most recently, preparing a timeline for the UK’s infrastructure out to 2050, which is in the form of quite a simple-looking but complex chart, when you look beneath it, of all the UK’s key infrastructure policies, opportunities and challenges over time and how they overlap. We did that piece of work because Infrastructure UK themselves, who had started it rolling, realised that they did not have the expertise-the germane knowledge-to do the job as well as they wished to. We were ready and available to help and support.
I can give another example, which is in the area of further education and skills. It became obvious to us a year or two ago that there was a paucity of knowledge, looking across the UK as a whole, of the output of the further education sector. There was a paucity of knowledge of what sort of training was being done, at what levels and in what subject areas. So we did an initial piece of work to set the scene, and then BIS, very willingly, funded the next set of work, which was a STEM data study, which reported this year and laid out in quite a lot of detail what sort of courses are being done, which courses are valued by employers, which ones are less valued by employers, at what levels technical education is being carried out and where the shortages are. A few alarming things came out of that. It was a valuable piece of work for BIS.
Q5 Chair: I do not know if you have seen today’s papers.
Philip Greenish: Yes.
Q6 Chair: There is a very bold statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, which personally is one that I would welcome, about Britain’s role in future space technologies. Would it not have been appropriate for the Royal Academy to have been consulted to make sure that the line that the Deputy Prime Minister was promoting, I guess on behalf of the Government, was in keeping with our capacity to deliver?
Philip Greenish: That is a very good point. It is, perhaps, the issue that we have most concern about in terms of Government policy making in that too often policies are made without real in-depth regard to the capacity to fulfil that policy. Our view is that it would be extremely beneficial to the UK and to policy making if we were consulted from the outset so that, as policy was being formed up, it was being properly informed by people who know what the issues are in terms of how we are going to deliver it. In answer to your question, it would have been great to have been consulted, yes.
Q7 Stephen Metcalfe: Gentlemen, good morning. Mr Aylett, following on from that point, you said in your submission that the high performance engineering and motorsport community wants "a seat at the table" when policies are being set. Can you expand on exactly how you would like to improve engagement with Government?
Chris Aylett: I sat here in envy of the policies that my colleague could trot out on engagement. I wrote a note to myself and, sadly, wrote next to it, "None". Why would a small sector with a value of just £12 billion ask for a seat at the table? At the moment we are grouped under the automotive engineering stable within BIS. The issue that our strange sector-high performance engineering, which is unique to the UK-would like to be debating is an improvement in R and D tax credits for SMEs, because 99% of our businesses are SMEs, as, indeed, are those in the UK. We would like to be involved in some of the diversification strategies that we have pioneered. It is important to us that we engage effectively with the space industry. We are R and D prototype builders. The fact that people enjoy watching those prototypes on TV trivialises it to some degree, but we have a unique resource in the UK to make these prototypes, essentially, to demonstrate them on television, but we also supply the space industry, which requires R and D prototypes.
It is the same with the automotive industry and the rest. I heard this morning that there may be an innovation policy or strategy for the UK coming forward, but we know nothing of it, other than hearing it on the radio as a layman. For example, in the automotive industry, which we have put together, a similar road map for 40 years of Britain’s automotive industry was produced. That was two years ago. No account was taken of the resource of high performance engineering. We think we could have played a part in establishing that plan. We are now trying to do so, but we are backfilling and finding a place for ourselves, as we see it, at the table. We recognise that our role in the economic life of the UK is relatively small, but we gain quite a lot of traction in terms of gaining public recognition for British engineering.
Q8 Stephen Metcalfe: Do you think it is a problem within BIS itself that it does not recognise the contribution? Do you think that that problem within BIS goes wider across the whole engineering sector-that you are just a homogeneous mass?
Chris Aylett: I would not be so presumptuous as to know how to answer the whole of the BIS story. The heading "advanced engineering" as a title for the whole mass of engineering brings with it some concerns, because, if you are not in advanced engineering, what are you in? Presumably, it is pretty ordinary engineering, and there must be a lot of people in ordinary engineering.
In our area, we have decided to make a sub-brand and call ourselves "high performance engineering" to try and explain that we are not just in motorsport but in high performance, R and D spending kind of engineering. It is quite hard. I do have some sympathy in that sense with these Government Departments handling reduction in resource. I can think of many other commercial interests where, when you group them together, you would lose your account managers and you would say, "Instead of doing Yorkshire and Lancashire, let’s just call it ‘the north’." In a sense, that might be what is happening to the Government Departments, but they are then going to miss some jewels.
Q9 Stephen Metcalfe: Do you want to add anything, Mr Greenish?
Philip Greenish: I am delighted that there is, undoubtedly, a much greater recognition within Government of the importance of engineering to the economy, the future of society and addressing the big challenges of society. Where, perhaps, I am not yet entirely happy is that the follow-through does not quite match the rhetoric yet, and we do not see enough joined-up activity in Government to support what the rhetoric is saying. I can give you an example from the higher education reforms. It would be fair for me to say that most people recognise that this country has a requirement to increase the number of higher level engineering and technical skills coming into the economy, but we fear greatly that the higher education reforms are not going to aid that process at all. In fact, we fear that they might set that process back. There is a real concern that, although the rhetoric generally is looking better, the follow-through into policy action hiccups in certain ways, which is not helpful.
Q10 Stephen Metcalfe: Could you expand on why you think the higher education reforms will not deliver on that strategy?
Philip Greenish: Yes; I can be specific on a couple of things. If you look at how the funding model has been re-designed, with student fees being set by universities up to a maximum of £9,000 a year, student numbers are being capped across all universities in order to free up more places, at one end, for students who have AAB in their A-levels or higher. The statistics tell us, looking across the piece, that fewer students in the STEM subjects and engineering have AAB for entering university than in the arts and humanities. If you look at the incentives on the universities to recruit students, if they are going to make a comfortable profit on students in lecture-based subjects-arts and humanities-and a loss on students who come in to do laboratory-based STEM subjects, then the incentive on them is not to increase the numbers of students doing STEM subjects.
At the other end of the scale, the Government have also incentivised universities that charge less than, I think, a figure of £7,500. There again, there is a problem for high-cost subjects like engineering, because it is quite difficult to see how quality engineering education can be carried out at a higher education institution at lower than £7,500 per student. So those issues are likely to disincentivise.
On the other hand, a positive argument is that the earnings potential of graduates in STEM subjects is higher than those from non-STEM subjects. The evidence-the statistics-show that their earnings on graduation are higher. We are talking about risk rather than certainty here because, of course, we have not been through this yet. But that is one of the concerns that we think has not yet been properly addressed.
Q11 Chair: Can I go to the other part of education before we move on? Last night at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers there were some very good presentations by a number of leading players. I recall the chairman of Finmeccanica, for example, making an impassioned plea in relation to the possible removal of design and technology from the English Bacc. Would you share that view?
Philip Greenish: Yes, I would. I would absolutely share that view.
Chris Aylett: So would I.
Philip Greenish: Design and technology is a challenging subject area because it is, of course, quite diverse. We have had discussions with the Department for Education about how that can be made a more rigorous subject than it is in some schools and colleges at the moment. Indeed, the Department for Education have asked us to provide an input to them on the re-design of the design and technology curriculum. There are some real dangers if it is lost from the national curriculum.
Q12 Chair: Mr Aylett, presumably, with your industry, which does excite many young people, you could contribute massively to the improvement of design and technology teaching in the secondary sector.
Chris Aylett: Yes, we would like to think so. There is no question-it is not meant to be a lightweight comment-that children of the age of 4 or 5 are doing engineering when they play laptop games, and the most popular game is motorsport, so they adjust wing angles and aerodynamics. At 4 years of age they understand some rudimentary mechanical engineering. Motorsport is a great motivator for young people. We have just been through a period, and I endorse all that Mr Greenish is saying, where we have seen the power of attracting young people into engineering by using the evocative world of motorsport. Also, I have to say that Lord Sainsbury supported me in this one when I once trotted out: our most senior engineers earn between £8 million and £10 million a year. They are probably the highest paid engineers. I don’t know about others. A mechanic will be earning between £50,000 to £60,000 a year. These are good incomes. There are not tens of thousands of them. We only employ 45,000 to 50,000. Lord Sainsbury agreed, when someone told me not to flash this kind of thing in front of people, that this is what motivates young people. That is what drives Premier League footballers. If you have cracking civil engineering stories and all the rest of it, why would you hide this light under a bushel? Our sector is very evocative and the most exciting sector of engineering, but somehow or other we are not quite matching the two together.
I worry about design and technology. We have just had a chap called Adrian Newey, who yet again beats the world as a British designer. Where is that generation coming from if they never even learn the rudiments at school?
Philip Greenish: We would maintain that an exposure to the right sort of activities in design and technology, at the right ages, captures a young person. These are young people with every level of academic ability and it inspires them to carry on with subjects that lead to careers in engineering and technology. It is very important.
Q13 Pamela Nash: Good morning, gentlemen. The Engineering report recommended that some Departments have Departmental Chief Engineering Advisers. Would each of you agree that this is necessary or do you think that the current system provides sufficient engineering advice to Departments?
Philip Greenish: I would start by saying that we have moved on a long way and very positively since that report. I take my hat off to Sir John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, who very clearly views himself as a Government Chief Engineering Adviser as well. He has taken great care to make sure that engineers are well represented at the level of Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers. There have been a couple of gaps in key Departments for far too long-BIS and the Department for Transport-but I have heard that they are going to be filled by engineers. So we have seen a very positive move in the right direction.
We have been asked by DECC to help their Chief Scientific Adviser recruit engineers into his part of DECC to support what is going on there. That is my starting point, and I would not want to diminish in any way anything that Sir John and his team have been doing. I would add, though, that we believe it would be very beneficial to have a Government Chief Engineering Adviser. The structure that was proposed by the IUSS Committee three or four years ago had a lot to commend it.
Chris Aylett: I would defer to that. Sir Mark Welland is coming to see Motorsport Valley in a few months’ time. So far as I know, Bob May, when he was Chief Scientific Adviser, understood the value of what we do. In fact, he is coming on one or two trips to Motorsport Valley with some folk, but, in general, we have very little contact at that level in either direction. If we have little contact with the Department as a whole, then you can imagine it is quite difficult to go straight to the Chief Scientific Adviser.
Philip Greenish: May I add one further point, which is that over the last three or four years the connections to the engineering community from the Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers have generally improved considerably. They are our main points of contact on engineering advice into Government. If I said there was a particular shortcoming, it is that they are the main points of contact, and there are not enough other points of contact with parts of Government Departments outside the CSA arena.
Q14 Pamela Nash: You mentioned that the Academy had been consulted by DECC when they were recruiting engineering advisers. Is that standard procedure for other Departments as well, particularly for their Chief Scientific Advisers, if they are having to wear both hats?
Philip Greenish: Yes, it is. I would not like to say that it happens all the time, but we are consulted a lot over these sorts of appointments. We are invited to help identify the sort of people who we think would be suitable and might be willing to take on these roles. Sometimes we help to advertise and broadcast opportunities at the higher levels of the engineering community.
Q15 Pamela Nash: Are you aware if you have that role solely, or do you know if Departments might consult other engineering institutions as well for advice?
Philip Greenish: Possibly, they do. Again, that is because other engineering institutions have embedded relationships with some Departments. It would be entirely natural for a particular Government that has a strong relationship with an institution to use that link directly. I will give you an example. The Energy Institute is a mid-sized institution. It is specifically focused on the world of energy. I would expect the Department of Energy and Climate Change to be talking to them a lot. I would hope that they would also consult them on such issues as expert engineers in the energy world that they want to recruit.
Q16 Pamela Nash: I am aware that the Academy nominates one member of the Home Office Scientific Advisory Committee. Is that the case for the advisory committees of any other Departments?
Philip Greenish: Yes, but I do not have particular figures. There are people that we have nominated and are in post in the scientific advisory committees.
Q17 Pamela Nash: Is that information that you could provide to the Committee?
Philip Greenish: Yes, I could.
Q18 Chair: Coming back to your comments about engagement with Government via the Academy, clearly, you have members of the Academy who work in the field of high performance engineering. Do you see yourself as representing that sector when meeting Government?
Philip Greenish: No. It would be wrong for us to say that. There are other bodies that represent sectors. What we can do, and what we do, is to provide people or groups of people who are expert in particular areas in their own individual right. If we are invited to put together, or if we ourselves want to put together, a collective view on a particular policy or collective advice, then we will draw on those individuals, but we are not a sectoral representative body.
Q19 Stephen Mosley: Going back to the 2009 Engineering report, one of its key focuses was that Government should act as an intelligent customer for engineering; in other words, they should have civil service staff who are able to understand and evaluate engineering advice. Does the Government act as an intelligent customer?
Philip Greenish: In parts, but it has been hampered by reductions in numbers in Government Departments, so they have not been free to recruit large numbers of engineers to enable them to fulfil that role since the last report. Progress is being made. I have mentioned the recruitment into DECC, which has been positive.
The Government Science and Engineering community, which is now a more formed grouping of scientists and engineers within Government, is now working to create a cadre of people who have a collective sense of identity. We have been supporting that community in providing opportunities for training and for them to attend events and activities which might broaden their understanding of engineering issues and policies across the piece.
Again, coming back to DECC, the recruitment of chartered engineers for particular roles is very positive. We would like to see that much more widely spread in other Government Departments, but I do not think it is happening yet.
Chris Aylett: Let me make a point that you may be interested in along those lines. When you mention "customer", it is almost corporate activity, which is my area, where we do represent sectoral interests. For a very large beast, I have to say that the MOD has been particularly progressive in engaging with our small sector. Under the new Minister and, indeed, the last Minister of Defence Procurement, they have become very proactive. To my mind, that is a Government Department and they are seeking ways of using our SMEs as some kind of model to say, "Actually, these guys are really good." We have created tens of millions of pounds worth of business in the last two years with defence from, one might say, an unlikely source. If you take motorsport to Afghanistan, it is similar to the Paris-Dakar rally. Parts of these vehicles are now being manufactured in motorsport.
Just recently, we have received an invitation to take a small group down to DSTL in Porton Down, where they realise, paraphrasing what I have been told, that they have a substantial amount of research capability and they would like to meet exploiters who can rapidly exploit that Government research, if necessary, outside the defence market. I understand that this is relatively unique. They are saying, "Please can we engage with you?" They are going to put on a display. Their chief scientists are going to present the outcomes of their research to a group of engineers. That is a Government Department actively reaching out to an SME community, which I applaud them on.
Q20 Stephen Mosley: Are there any other areas that you can see from your position where engineering could help the Government or sectors of industry but it is not doing so at the moment? Are there any gaps at the moment?
Philip Greenish: There are gaps probably everywhere. You are going to ask me for examples, and my mind will be blank, but I can add a general point. We would wish for Government Departments to have the right level of expertise to understand when they need to have more of it, not necessarily to provide it all themselves. Sometimes that is not the case.
Q21 Stephen Mosley: Can I push you a bit and ask where?
Philip Greenish: The classic example goes back a bit, and I would add that I would not want to criticise this currently. When the policies on wind energy were first being produced, very little regard was paid to the practicalities of creating a wind infrastructure of the scale that exists at the moment. There are still issues in that regard, but I would not like to be too critical because it is work in progress and it is a huge challenge.
Q22 Stephen Mosley: As a Government Back Bencher, I will nod at that last comment because I would disagree there.
Philip Greenish: Let me add a further point, which is that the reason why we have established the Engineering the Future grouping, and a portal into this very large profession, is so that people in policy-making positions in Government can have access to the expert engineering advice when they need it. To date, I have already said that most of the requests come through the CSA community. It is more push from us than pull from Government. That tells me that this is work in progress. When we get to the position where we have much more pull from Government in terms of requesting advice and information than push from us, then I will know that we have succeeded. Then we will have the challenge of meeting the demand, but that is the sort of challenge that we would like to have. One can then make decisions on priorities.
If we compare it with the system that operates in the USA with their national academies, it is much more structured. Congress and the Administration have a legal right and responsibility to invite their national academies to advise on all sorts of areas of policy. They deliver that through a policy staff that numbered, at the last count, a little over 1,200, leaving aside the other things that they do. We could not go that far, and perhaps we would not want to. There is a happy medium which is somewhere further down the line from where we are now.
Chris Aylett: Let me give you one short example that addresses, from my perspective, your question. Engineering is, indeed, a vast area. It is critical. We are a home of innovative engineers. If anything else, Britain’s future is innovation generally as opposed to rhetorically. We genuinely innovate, and you can count many such people involved. Government Departments do not facilitate diversification. So an engineer who takes a discipline from one area and sees an extraordinary market opportunity in another has a very strange maze to travel through the realm of Government to make sure that he locks into it. We are finding by the day that we have to re-engage with the Ministry of Defence. We have to re-engage with the Department that handles marine and we have to re-engage with aerospace. For an SME community of innovative engineers that spends 30% of its sales on R and D, it just wants to get on and do some good business. That structure does not ease the passage and the exploitation of the engineering talent that we have.
Q23 Stephen Mosley: Let me turn to something else that you said earlier, Mr Greenish. You were talking about headcount reductions and the effect that that might have on the engineering community within Government. Are you able to quantify that or give any specific examples of where that has caused problems?
Philip Greenish: No. I cannot think of a specific example. It is, perhaps, to the Government’s credit that we have not seen specific examples where expertise has just evaporated; at least I have not.
Q24 Roger Williams: Engineering as a trade or profession can be typified as being male and white. As a group of MPs, I do not think that we can take the high ground on that matter. The Government cut funding to the United Kingdom Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology. Mr Greenish, was the Royal Academy consulted about that?
Philip Greenish: No, we were not. I was aware that it was likely to happen, but we were not consulted.
Q25 Roger Williams: What would you have said if you had been consulted?
Philip Greenish: I would have said that it is a huge issue in the UK. The proportion of female undergraduates in engineering, technology and related courses has remained stubbornly at about 13% for a number of years, having climbed gradually from virtually nothing in the ’80s and ’90s. We are not cracking it. The UK is the lowest of all European countries in terms of the proportion of women entering professional careers in engineering. One could say that it seems a strange time to remove funding from the body that was established to promote gender diversity in STEM.
However, I would not be qualified to judge on why that decision was made and whether a view was taken that there were better ways of spending money. Through the last spending review, the Government did allocate a small sum of money to the Royal Academy of Engineering to lead diversity in engineering. It is £200,000 a year, which is enough to fund a post and a small range of work, but we are taking a different approach to this situation. Our approach is taking our leadership position across engineering and working down into the profession to get other people to do the work. It is fair to say that a lot of the valuable work that the UK Resource Centre was doing was embedded in companies and organisations, so quite a lot of it was bottom up. We do not have the resources to do anything other than that type of work.
Q26 Roger Williams: The Government implied that working towards diversity should be mainstreamed into other work programmes. Is there any evidence that that is happening, or is that a real consideration when programmes are constructed?
Philip Greenish: There is evidence that it is happening in all sorts of places. There is evidence in industry that many big engineering companies are doing a lot of work to improve the gender diversity of their companies. They are working in schools, colleges and with the profession; so, many companies are working with us and others in the profession to do this. To give you some specifics, you may be aware of the Big Bang: UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair. It is part-funded by Government, part-funded by industry and heavily supported by the profession. A lot of that effort is focused on getting young girls as well as boys interested in STEM subjects. If you go to it, you will see that it is very broadly based across the whole of science and engineering, but the engineering is right in your face. It is very exciting. This year it is taking place in Birmingham, and we expect to have 40,000 to 50,000 people attending. It has grown to that level in less than four years, which is extraordinary. We also have a collective of programmes which are supported by industry and third sector deliverers. They take place in schools, where they school tomorrow’s engineers. We deliver it jointly with EngineeringUK, and the gender diversity is pretty evenly spread.
Our own Academy has a range of schemes at the higher levels of school, college, university and post-grad. The gender diversity is pretty good in our post-doctoral research fellowship scheme, for example. Over 40% are women. There are signs of progress, but, overall, we are not yet shifting the body of the kirk sufficiently.
Q27 Roger Williams: Mr Aylett, perhaps I could ask you a very unfair question. Could you tell us when a woman is going to be on the podium?
Chris Aylett: How soon? It won’t be that long; it really won’t. I want you to know this. I am focusing on engineering, not driving. Driving is another Department, surely. A young British lady-we think she might be the first-was the race engineer at Le Mans. Her car was the Audi that came over. She trained as an aeronautical engineer and started in motorsport only six years ago. To win Le Mans, which is a battle of giants in terms of spending-she is an English girl who has a job with Audi and has won Le Mans-it means base engineering. She was standing on a pit wall for the 24 hours and she called the whole race, as they say. Strangely enough, her sister is in the same position on the Mini World Rally team. We have quite a good list but, strangely enough, I did think that this question might come up. We are also in the area of 15% to 20% of women employees within motorsport, which is a very macho industry. I think it is not bad progress.
Strangely enough, we also have the same thing at schools. From the school competitions that we are involved in, you would quite happily say that this is very diverse in terms of gender. We have Formula Schools and Formula 1 in Schools. Many girls are thoroughly enjoying it. I have interviewed many of them who say that motorsport is cool, clean, fresh and exciting, but they don’t necessarily then get a job in it. Something happens between going to college and university and getting a job.
Philip Greenish: We are severely hampered by the fact that only 20% of those who take A-level physics are female. Physics is not necessarily an absolute requirement for an engineering degree, but it is important. That is the pool we are talking about for engineering. That is a real problem.
Q28 Stephen Metcalfe: I have a quick question to drill down into that. Engineering is a very wide sector. Are there any particular sub-sectors within that sector that are doing much better than others? You said 15% to 20% are interested in motorsport. Are there any sectors that are doing better and, if so, why are they doing better?
Philip Greenish: Yes, there are-in biomedical engineering. I do not think that the profession has yet succeeded in getting the message across that, whatever branch of engineering you are in, you are contributing to the benefit of society. With biomedical engineering, it is quite clear to everybody that there are immediate, tangible and personal benefits. This information is a year or two out of date, but I was told that, at Imperial College’s biomedical engineering degree course, more than half of the students are women. Chemical engineering has done very well in terms of recruiting more than its fair share of women. In contrast, sadly, mechanical engineering is still struggling.
Q29 Chair: I have a final question to you, Mr Aylett. It is something that is dear to my heart as it is a local issue that re-surfaced recently when I was talking to the Williams Team. This was, if I can use the pun, the spin-off company out of Eurenco that then created an energy storage device, which the Williams Team is now working on. That struck me at the time, and I had fierce rows with the head of British Nuclear Fuels, as a classic example of the Government not recognising what they had their hands on. Potentially, it was a very valuable piece of technology that they were not prepared to develop to production. I now know that in Stephen’s constituency, which abuts mine, there are several small businesses that are crawling over Government patents and looking at potential areas of exploiting those patents. Is it your experience that it is widespread across Government that there may be an awful lot of untapped material because of the lack of understanding of the science and engineering that Government Departments are sitting on?
Chris Aylett: I will call you after I go to Porton Down because, strangely enough, that is almost exactly what they are saying. They are saying that they have all this research which has been funded. If it is not exploited by the defence primes, who is going to exploit it? They met our group and they have been very actively interested in what we are doing and seeing us deliver in fast order. They said, "Please come and look at our treasure trove of research and help us exploit it." I would say that in that particular area, yes, it must be true. I was unaware of Porton Down and unaware of the DSTL until someone said, "Gosh, we’ve got a lot of cool research down here. You’re good exploiters. Come and have a go." I cannot imagine that there would not be other pockets of research.
I will go on a negative note, I am afraid, Chairman. The Government may not have noticed the value of Williams’ hybrid powers, but the Qatari Government did. They have set up an R and D centre in Qatar in partnership with Williams Formula 1. The reason I am probably sitting here is, as Harvard have said, how can you have a jewel in the crown like our sector sitting in front of you at very difficult times for the UK and watch other Governments rape and pillage it? It seems that we ought to use some of our assets better.
Chair: That is a very good note on which to finish. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for your attendance this morning.