Yesterday saw the first awards for the new Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. The £1m prize was split between Tim Berners-Lee, Bob Kahn, Vint Cerf, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreessen – five of the key guys responsible for creating the standards and software that run the web.
This prize will now be awarded every year to one to three individuals “responsible for ground-breaking innovation in engineering that has been of global benefit to humanity” and presented by the Queen. This is one of the paragraphs from their website:
During the search for a winner, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering will discover and celebrate stories of engineering success, raise the international public profile of engineering and inspire new generations of engineers to take up the challenges of the future.
I think that’s great. Celebrating engineers in the hope of inspiring future generations is exactly what we should be doing. The great challenges ahead of us are increasingly engineering challenges rather than science challenges yet fewer and fewer people are choosing to study engineering (I recently heard that computer science applications to Cambridge University have fallen by 50% over the last ten years). Apparently the organisers want the Queen Elizabeth Prize to become as important and well regarded as the Nobel Prize – I have to believe that would encourage a few more smart people to pursue careers in engineering.
Finally, kudos to the companies that have funded the prize: BAE Systems, BG Group, BP, GSK, Jaguar Land Rover, National Grid, Shell UK, Siemens UK, Sony, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Steel, and Toshiba.