AEngD urges more UK Government support for EngD

(19 April 2017) - The Association of Engineering Doctorates (AEngD) has published its response to the UK Government's industry strategy green paper, highlighting the continued need for collaboration between industry and academia through EngD programmes.

In its detailed response, coordinated by steering group chair Professor William Powrie, the AEngD underlines the value of industry-driven research undertaken in partnership with academia:

"In particular, our experience over more than 22 years has shown that the EngD forms the foundation for the development of robust and mutually beneficial partnerships between academia and industry through Research Engineers … being engaged in industry-driven research and personal and professional development programmes …."

Supporting the next generation of research leaders and entrepreneurs

The AEngD highlights distinctive EngD degree features which it believes will support future research leaders and entrepreneurs by providing them with the networks and skills they need to innovate. As the consultation paper omits any mention to EngDs but discusses PhD-based research, the AEngD suggests that “the EngD should be included explicitly” in future industrial strategy discussions.

It reminds Government that critical differences between the EngD and an industry-sponsored PhD were overlooked in the most recent EPSRC round of awards for Doctoral Training centres in 2013-2014. As part of its consultation response, it included a joint EPSRC/AEngD study published in 2015 which showed that EngD programmes:

Specific features of the EngD are that:

Developing the UK’s competitive strengths

Responding to a question on developing competitive opportunities from innovation in energy and existing UK industrial strengths, the AEngD highlights how the EngD supports commercialisation of ideas.

"The EngD qualification is regarded by many industrial contacts as ‘the gold standard’ for achieving impact by translating … industrially relevant university research to industrial application. Our experience is that the UK SME supply chain is especially interested in the strong, fundamentally sound but industrial-context EngD research; and the quality of training making it possible for companies to acquire highly skilled staff and the know-how to implement emerging advanced technologies. The EngD is, and should continue to be, a key part of the mix of science, innovation and training to deliver the improvements in industrial productivity necessary for the UK to compete in global markets."

Boosting industry not academia

The AEngD strongly supports the Government’s commitment to increasing funding for R&D, particularly in STEM subjects, and urges more concerted efforts to grow and retain talent in the UK and, in particular, in industry rather than academia:

"The whole aim and ethos of the EngD … was to attract the brightest and best students into a programme of industry-relevant research, that would equip them to be future leaders in industry and commerce. In contrast, the traditional PhD is largely seen as primarily to train future academics. Attractive features included the nature of the programme and the award, the collaboration with industry, and an enhanced stipend. All these were lost in the massive wave of Doctoral Training Centres established in or about 2013-14."

Regional development

The AEngD also suggests the establishment of regional EngD programmes to raise skills levels in areas in need of economic development:

"… many engineering/science disciplines are currently facing an adverse demographic. This requires the training of new, highly skilled engineers and scientists to support many strategically important industry sectors and the national infrastructure, and the supply chains upon which they rely heavily. The EngD is an ideal model to attract quality graduates to undertake higher level training and to work in these vital industrial sectors. Establishing regional EngD programmes could promote further the opportunities for the next generation of engineers and scientists to acquire the skills to maintain and modernise the national and regional/local industries. Most EngD centres have a excellent relationship with local companies - we can provide an effective and proven vehicle for industry / academia research collaborations."

Built Environment R&D

As well as regionally-focused programmes, the AEngD highlights the need to address major challenges in the construction and civil engineering sectors (industrial doctorate centres supporting research in construction and the built environment fared badly in the 2013-2014 funding round). It suggests that UK technical education in construction is behind European counterparts:

"While there are examples of truly excellent and world class individuals and companies, … accepted standards of technical competence and performance lags both internationally and in comparison with many other engineering disciplines within the UK. The competitiveness of UK industry and its ability to provide the infrastructure upgrades needed at a price the nation can afford are questionable. While industry is active on a number of fronts, we would encourage clear government departmental oversight to improve skills and expectations in construction."

In this respect, the AEngD endorses the Institution of Civil Engineers’ recently published “State of the Nation” report, with its emphasis on digital transformation:

"Several EngD centres are engaged in relevant industry-driven research projects, but better incentives are needed for construction and infrastructure companies to engage. In this respect, construction compares poorly with (for example) aerospace, automotive and defence."

Professor William Powrie, who is also Professor of Geotechnical Engineering and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, said:

"The AEngD welcomes the UK Government’s commitment to more funding for R&D, particularly in STEM subjects. However, where doctoral research is concerned, we believe any future industrial strategy should explicitly endorse the EngD qualification, and, where EngD programmes clearly support key pillars of its strategy, should be appropriately funded to enhance collaboration and knowledge exchange between industry and academia."


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For further information, please contact:
Paul Wilkinson (PR consultant to AEngD) – or 07788 445920


Notes for editors

1          AEngD

The Association of Engineering Doctorates was established in 2010 and quickly encompassed almost all of the EPSRC-designated centres awarding EngD degrees at UK universities, with industry sponsors, existing EngD research engineers and alumni as associate members. A community engaged in research in engineering and related disciplines, it aims to:

2          EngD

The Engineering Doctorate (EngD) scheme was established by the EPSRC in 1992 (following recommendations of the 1990 Engineering Doctorate Report, produced by a working group chaired by Professor Parnaby). The first EngD programmes began in 1992.

Research interests embrace all major areas of engineering, manufacturing and related disciplines including:

3          Supporting research document


AEngD response to strategy consultation

AEngD response to UK Industrial strategy consultation 2017.pdf