Saturday, December 10, 2011

Technology's £1m Nobel prize on the starting blocks

A £1 million prize for technological innovation was launched in London today - and although the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPE) may sound like a UK-centric affair, the big money competition will be open to engineers the world over. To be run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the idea is to compete with the circa £1 million prizes handed out for science research by the Nobel Foundation.
By offering a £1 million prize, the eleven blue chip companies funding it hope to spur innovation and reward the successful appliance of science in solving the world's over-arching problems, such as combating climate change. It will awarded every two years from 2013 for "outstanding advances in engineering that have created significant benefit to humanity".
The QEPE has strong political backing. Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said he hoped the prize would encourage children who currently hanker after entering TV talent shows like X Factor, or becoming soccer stars, to begin numbering engineering among their professional ambitions. He also believes that the prize, alongside the opening of new innovation centres, will bolster Britain's flagging patenting rates, which are in a state of long-term decline.
Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, hopes the QEPE will encourage a revival in British engineering - which begs the question: why is it then open to all nations to enter? "By doing it in this way you're not only going to give engineering a boost, but also Britain a boost too - and I think the two go together very clearly," he told New Scientist.

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