CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Sensor Review, Volume 30, Issue 1
Our theme for this issue is “Chinese sensor developments and applications', and in case you had not noticed there is an awful lot going on in China these days.
In the television news today, there was a story that both serves as a timely reminder of how the UK, and to a lesser or greater extent, Europe and the USA, have turned their backs on engineering – and that fortunately a few glimmers of hope remain.
The company in the spotlight was Dyson – the company that invented the bagless vacuum cleaner; and its founder James Dyson was announcing the development of a bladeless fan.
James Dyson is probably the most famous inventor in the UK and one of his life's missions is to encourage more people to take up a career in engineering. He emphasized that “In the UK we have vacancies for 60,000 engineers and we only produce 20,000 engineers a year out of our universities. We've closed down, in the last ten years, 40 engineering and science faculties at universities.”
“We are just falling behind other countries. And because we're not filing patents our exports are declining. We're in the deficit of £7bn every month, we're in a recession and we must trade our way out of it.”
“This is our opportunity to train more engineers, train more scientists, recognise it's an extremely important part of our society – we can't just go around making money out of money we have to make money out of making things.”
I fully expect that other Western countries are in the same or a similar position but it is not for lack of latent talent in this area. The UK has a fine tradition of invention that includes such useful technologies as computers, radar and “U” bend toilets. The problem at the moment is that this talent remains latent, hiding inside every person otherwise engaged in non-engineering activities.
My concern is not primarily national, although of course, I do have special concerns in that area, but is instead driven by a much broader concern for the planet as a whole. There is no reason why every country should not flourish and I would not want any progress made by the UK to be at the expense of another.
Of the many problems facing the Earth, those at the top of my list are the environmental damage that we have inflicted on it and the enormous disparity between the rich and poor. The only true wealth is that created by making something, and “making something” needs engineers.
If the planet is on a slippery slope environmentally then I am convinced that it will not be politicians, or religious leaders or military action that will save the day. These may alter what happens to who and in what order, but in terms of the planet as a whole our hopes must lie with technology and the engineers that develop it.
For example, carbon trading just acts as a politically correct justification for pollution by fining countries for exceeding their quota, and pays that fine to developing countries that then use the money to make their own pollution.
We all need to change our ways and in my view our best hope lies in the development of new technologies. Sensors are at the centre of engineering, and like the acoustic sensors in James Dyson's anechoic test chamber, their signals allow us to measure what is wrong so we can work to make improvements.