Engineers in front of a screen showing design drawings


Ben Barrass, MD at Cascade Engineering, talks about the value and impact of innovative engineering in the UK.

As an engineer, I’m often intrigued when I hear people say that they think the UK has lost its engineering way, and that it all now happens in China or South-east Asia. We certainly have less ‘heavy’ industry than we did 50 years ago, but the UK is a real hub of engineering excellence and innovation, and I’m proud to be part of this thriving sector.

According to research released by the Royal Academy of Engineering at the end of last year, the engineering sector contributes £645 billion to the UK’s annual economy. That’s bigger than the GDP of Switzerland. And the number of people involved in the sector – around eight million people in around 729,000 businesses – is also significant.

Flying the flag for engineering innovation

Engineering is a complex discipline, so yes, while many of our everyday appliances may be made outside the UK, we have an outstanding reputation for innovation, design and development. For me, that’s where the real value lies. Commercial businesses like Cascade Engineering are working alongside government agencies and academia around the country to make our lives easier, safer, more economical and better for the environment.

Generally, our work at Cascade is about complex engineering and how we can build aeroplanes, ships and energy infrastructure so that they perform better, using the latest materials, designs and approaches to be lighter, faster and safer. We’re usually working on long-term projects, integrating with multiple teams to deliver specialist services, so we tend to see the engineering sector at its very best.

UK engineering across the board

Whether engineers are involved in primary research, engaged in commercial innovation, designing specific components or working across complex projects with a practical outcome, they are often the backbone of our economic security. We are only going to need more engineers as we expect devices, transport, appliances, security and communications – to name but a few – to become even more sophisticated.

To me this means there is a strong rationale for encouraging young people into the sector, which is one of the reasons that we encourage work placement students from both schools and universities. Of course, engineering has its historic successes, but I’m more interested in the strong, dynamic and vibrant future that I know awaits Cascade and the next generation of engineers.

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