Global Engineering Capability Review

Growth, development and innovation

Enhancing growth and development

Engineering activity boosts economic growth in diverse ways, from the archetypal provision of roads and bridges that allow supply chains to function, to biomedical advances that improve public health and productivity. Associated tasks range from product and factory design to the development of public transportation and waste management systems. All of these activities remain critically important for developed and developing countries alike. In the UK, for example, manufacturing enterprises accounted for 26% of the country’s GDP and employed about 19% of the total workforce in 2015. In Ethiopia, manufacturing is the sector of choice for the country’s planned industrialisation (see section 3). [3]

The scope of work and the number of fields in which engineers are required have vastly expanded. This is particularly apparent in the growth of the digital economy, where engineers are focused on developing new architectures for business, telecommunications and the public sector. This includes designing systems that automate previously manual tasks, constructing hardware for cellular networks and developing software to power commercial operations. [4]

Driving innovation

Engineers play a critical role in driving innovation. Findings from the UK Innovation Survey show that businesses that are determined to be highly innovative “have a significantly higher share of employment accounted for by science and engineering (STEM) graduates.” This has also been shown to have a large, positive influence on various performance metrics. [5]

This ability to drive innovation makes engineers valuable in a growing digital economy. A combination of rigorous research and readily available skills can attract private- sector investment in pursuit of disruptive technologies, which can help to pioneer new methods for tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges. With the potential mass application of new technologies comes the responsibility to implement them ethically, particularly in unequal economic or social contexts. These new technologies include:

Renewable technology: Engineers are helping to find new ways to make our energy systems more efficient and sustainable.

Robotics: Engineers are designing and developing robots that will have a huge impact on how we live and work. Robots will improve the efficiency, safety and productivity of everything from agriculture to nuclear energy.

3D printing or additive manufacturing: Engineers have supported developments in 3D printing technology. These innovations have already changed safety and efficiency in sectors such as medical care and manufacturing.

Fifth-generation wireless (5G) technology: Engineers are developing the latest in mobile network technology. With speeds 10 times faster than 4G, 5G’s capacity to transmit enormous amounts of data creates opportunities for governments, businesses and consumers alike. 5G holds great promise for data-heavy initiatives such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and activities including remote surgery.