The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has opened for nominations today while pledging to attract more girls and young women to technical disciplines.
Aspiring to become the ‘Nobel Prize for engineers’, the £1m international prize, launched in 2011 and awarded in the name of Queen Elizabeth, is open for entries from all around the world. Any living engineer considered to have made a huge impact on the evolution of the society with his or her work could be nominated, though self-nominations are not permitted.
At the same time, the QE Prize for Engineering Foundation – the charity running the prize awarded every two years – has launched an initiative to attract more young girls and women to technical and engineering disciplines.
“From large-scale infrastructure to medical technology, engineers’ achievements transform every aspect of our daily lives. Our research shows that parents are reluctant for their daughters to enter the field of engineering, believing that other subjects offer them better opportunities,” said the QE Prize for Engineering Foundation’s Chairman Lord Browne of Madingley.
Recent research conducted by the QEPrize shows that engineering still suffers from an image problem – especially among the parents of girls. Despite the fact that the UK needs 1 million more engineers by 2020, the QEPrize survey found that parents of girls aged between 5 and 18 are still inclined to encourage their daughters to study subjects other than engineering and science. 73 per cent of mums and dads said they believed that other subjects offer better career opportunities for girls.
Last year only 4,228 girls applied to read engineering at university, compared with 28,020 boys, which the QEPrize survey indicates could be related to parents’ attitudes towards the discipline. Parents continue to assume their daughters are most interested in humanities, with 70 per cent claiming that their daughters are interested in art and nearly 60 per cent saying they are more interested in literature. In contrast, only 18 per cent said their daughters are interested in engineering.
While 63 per cent of parents questioned said they talk to their children about TV, only 10 per cent said they ever discussed science and engineering. That figure falls to 3 per cent in households where no one close to the family works in science or engineering.
“Engineering is key to helping the country maintain its competitiveness in the global marketplace,” said Lord Browne. “It is absolutely critical that girls and their parents are aware of the opportunities and breadth of experience that a career in engineering can offer.”
To raise the profile of engineering in the society and especially among young people, the QE Prize for Engineering Foundation has launched an international network of young engineers – the QE Prize Ambassadors – who will evangelise about engineering and inspire the next generation to create the future.
“Engineering is hardwired into us. From the earliest times, people have worked to shape the world around them and improve their lives through engineering.,” said Professor Brian Cox, one of this year’s QE Prize judges.
“We need more engineers now, to carry on this legacy, and it is imperative that parents encourage their children, especially their daughters, to study STEM subjects. It is obvious to me that the symbiotic relationship between science and engineering will define the future of the global economy, and on a wider scale, the future of our civilisation, just as it defined our past.”
The nominations for the QE Prize for Engineering will stay open until 14 July 2014. The judges will then assess the nominees and the winners will be announced in early 2015.
In 2013, Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf and Louis Pouzin were awarded for their contribution to developing protocols that form the building blocks of the Internet. Sir Tim Berners-Lee was recognised for his invention of the World Wide Web, while Marc Andreessen received the prize for his authorship of the world’s first massively used web browser Mosaic.