Transcript for Working to Engineer a Better World

Natasha Kaplinsky - ITV News Anchor

With engineering research behind growth in nearly every economic sector, long-term investment is needed to keep UK growth on track.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council invests around £800 million each year in research and postgraduate training, helping to drive UK productivity. So we sent Sarah Lockett to Cardiff to find out how engineering research is making a difference; and meet some of the current and future leaders in the field.

Sarah Lockett [SL]

When we think of engineering, we may think of images like this. Here, students from Cardiff University put the finishing touches to their student formula racing car. But engineering is much more than this and people have many reasons for loving it.

Cardiff Student 1

It's very varied. You can go into a lot of industries, whether it is automotive, aerospace, even financial industries as well and managerial positions, we are problem solvers.

Cardiff Student 2

I really like the fact that you can invent and create and try to find solutions for the problems that you find in the world.

Cardiff Student 3

The variety that you can immerse yourself in. How international engineering is, because you can take it all over the world.

Cardiff Student 4

The research side of things. Looking at stuff that people haven't done before and new areas and making stuff work properly, not just work in a lab.


Professor Karen Holford oversees the academic direction of Cardiff University's College of Physical Sciences and Engineering. Her own research involves detecting damage in large structures including aircraft, funded by grants, but also partnering with industry.

Professor Karen Holford - Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Cardiff University

In engineering we always tend to do applied research which will go somewhere. Even if it's from blue skies research, which is discovery, it's always with an aim to doing something which will solve a problem, so the research is absolutely geared to putting products into market.


Visiting Cardiff's Optometry and Vision Sciences Department today from Liverpool is Professor Rachel Williams, whose researching ways of improving eye sight. So is that engineering or medicine? Or both?

Professor Rachel Williams - Professor, Ophthalmic Bioengineering, Liverpool University

Both parts of it are intimately linked and that's the really important part of this sort of research. You couldn't do one without the other, because engineering underpins a lot of the different medical areas, right from novel imaging for diagnosis, or in terms of new treatments and perhaps making less invasive surgery, or in fact in terms of drug delivery.


Professor Jennifer Whyte shows me the mobile immersive environment she and her team have developed at the Design Innovation Research Centre at the University of Reading. This is the proposed Crossrail White Chapel Station in East London.

Professor Jennifer Whyte - Professor of Systems Integration, Laing O'Rourke Academy of Engineering

The problems are often at the interfaces between different kinds of engineering. And so our work has been about visualising and understanding those digital design interfaces. I think it's a really exciting time to be in engineering because there's a real opportunity for people to develop new ways of delivering complex projects that take advantage of these new technologies.


Engineering research contributed an estimated £280 billion in gross value added to the UK economy in 2011. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is the main government agency funding research and training in this area, investing around £800 million a year.

In Cardiff's high voltage lab, Dr Kedar Pandya told me the EPSRC works with over 3,000 companies to invest in collaborative research across UK universities.

Dr Kedar Pandya - Head of Engineering Theme, EPSRC

If you look around the world, the one thing that you see is that economic growth is matched with technological progress. So if you ask the question, how do we secure our economic growth? Well it's funding the new and emerging technologies that are going to make a difference and that are going to be applied in ways that we can't conceive of today.


You may have noticed something unusual about my report. And that's that three out of the four professionals I've interviewed today are women. That's exceptional for engineering, because in the UK, only six to seven per cent of engineering professionals are female. That's something that the EPSRC are working to change by emphasising the diversity and the excitement of engineering.

Here in Cardiff and elsewhere, the EPSRC have contributed funding to all the research projects featured in this film. Their long-term investment is associated with some £60 billion worth of economic activity and £16 billion of cost savings in the public and private sectors.