UKRI Report Sets Out Long-term Vision for Engineering Research Challenges in the UK

A new report published on 8th July by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) sets out the long-term vision for how engineering research will help to tackle key challenges in the sector.

Watch: Tackling the engineering challenges of tomorrow | UKRI

The report, titled Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges (TERC), follows one of the largest engagement exercises conducted across the UK’s engineering and research community. Engagement activity brought together representatives from academia, industry and government, convening a number of workshops, roundtable discussions and written contributions to inform and inspire future strategy and solutions.

The report was facilitated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, the main UK funder of engineering research.

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said:

“It has been great to see the community connect and collaborate to identify the key challenges for future engineering.

The new perspectives that have been offered have been refreshing and have truly shaped our thinking in the development of this report. We are committed to working with the engineering community to realise their recommendations.

Engineering skills are essential to deliver the innovation and new technologies required to deliver social and economic success across the UK.”

Royce and Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges

The Henry Royce Institute (Royce) welcomes the TERC report, identifying firm strategic links between the outcomes of the publication and Royce’s vision of advanced materials for a sustainable society.

Outcomes of the report aligning with Royce strategy include: the recognition of the value of advanced materials research in delivering net-zero, convening and connecting the engineering community to exploit research, improving diversity in the engineering sector and fostering skills development across students, early and mid-career engineers to encourage a climate of agility within the UK community.

The materials technology challenge area identified in the TERC report will benefit from research, innovation and industrial collaboration undertaken across the Royce partnership, with Royce actively addressing many of the potential barriers identified in the report through its own National Materials Challenges.

Royce has already allocated significant investment and resource into overcoming the potential barriers identified in the technological challenge area for materials in the TERC report. This includes making funding available to stimulate industrial collaboration, providing free and subsidised access to national research facilities, outreach from the level of primary education through a partnership with Discover Materials, and landscaping and blueprinting activities to identify clear gap analysis and recommendations for next steps for investment and infrastructure in the UK.

The cross-cutting nature of advanced materials research and innovation facilitated by Royce will support the UK’s engineering community in overcoming barriers in many of the TERC technological challenge areas such as space, transportation systems, health and wellbeing, robotics and AI and responsible engineering.

Research being undertaken in the Royce national materials challenge area of Materials 4.0 will support the ‘faster digital design’ engineering theme identified in the report through accelerating, enhancing and automating the design process across areas of engineering practice.

The ‘increasing human resilience’ TERC theme will be supported by Royce research and innovation in the Biomedical Materials area and by addressing global energy and emissions challenges through the Materials for the Energy Transition roadmaps.

Further information on the impact Royce has made in the engineering sector can be found here.

Outcomes of Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges

The engagement activities carried out by EPSRC to facilitate the report helped to identify the most pressing actions and recommendations for funders, professional bodies and the wider community:

  • promoting inclusive engineering outcomes for all
  • strengthening mechanisms to facilitate and fund multi- and inter-disciplinary research
  • ‘re-engineering’ the discipline of engineering, bringing knowledge from other disciplines to bear to prepare young engineers to tackle future challenges
  • encouraging diverse, agile and impactful skills
  • convening and connecting with the professional engineering community to enhance impact
  • inspiring the next generation of engineers.

The report identifies a number of broad cross-cutting themes which engineering will play a crucial role in addressing:

  • achieving net zero and sustainability
  • faster digital design
  • greater access and use of data
  • increasing human resilience
  • understanding complex systems
  • harnessing disruptive, emerging technologies
  • underpinning tools and techniques.

It also explores the ambitious technological challenges for the next 10 to 15 years which engineering research will be crucial to addressing:

  • space
  • transportation systems
  • materials
  • health and wellbeing
  • robotics and artificial intelligence
  • responsible engineering
  • nature-based engineering
  • global engineering solutions.
  • Continuing community engagement, such as workshops to discuss the report and its recommendations, will take place later in the year.

Read the report: Tomorrow’s Engineering Research Challenges.