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Engineers should get more ‘arty’

Engineers should embrace the arts to encourage innovation and help create new products, boosting future economic competitiveness.

This is according to Sir John O’Reilly who will give the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Mountbatten Memorial Lecture on 20 November 2014. 

His lecture, entitled “Full STEAM ahead for growth: knowledge, innovation and industrial strategy” will argue that it is vitally important to recognise the role of the arts, notably design and aesthetics in creativity and critical thinking.

This is approach is said to be relevant when it comes to conceiving people-centred solutions or innovations.

Sir John said: “We depend on engineering and technology for pretty much everything these days. For example in just the IT area with have the likes of internet shopping; computer-supported air traffic control; smartphones for business and friends; tablets for watching TV and so forth.

“In all of these areas, the ability to innovate is crucial for success. We often - rightly - hear of the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) but we need to ensure we don’t miss a trick by not giving due weight also to the arts.

“Engineering and technology is an increasingly diverse and creative domain - hence STEAM. When you bring in the arts you include some important people-centric aspects that can be crucial to success: in practical use and in the market.”

And there are some outstanding examples where art and design have been embraced to good effect. Just one such is Dyson, the British technology company that designs and manufactures a range of household appliances - a good example of a UK-based firm that has embraced the innovation that STEAM proposes.

For more information on the event, visit www.theiet.org/mountbatten.

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