on December 12th, 2019

Engineering companies in the United Kingdom are ensuring the engineers of the future engage with engineering through collaboration and innovation. To achieve this, the Royal Academy of Engineering has developed a day to celebrate engineers and their contribution to the world. The day is aptly named: This Is Engineering Day, and it took place on Wednesday, the 6th of November. 

“From the shoes you wear and the phone in your hand, through to the music you listen to and the games you play, engineering is at the heart of everything. It brings ideas to life and turns dreams into reality. Whether you’re into sports, beats, fashion, festivals, trainers, or tech, there’s a place in engineering for you.” 

On the same day the fourth iteration of the Engineer magazine’s 2019 Collaborate to Innovate (C2I) awards took place, recognizing some of the most awe-inspiring UK-led engineering projects from the past year. 

Neil McDougall, Managing Director of Frazer-Nash Consultancy writes in C2I’s report, “This century will bring advances in technology, equipment, and systems that we can’t yet imagine, but, for the present, our profession is being held back by a lack of entrants wanting to join its ranks.  

“The skills shortage in engineering is, of course, well recognized: the government has predicted a shortfall of around 186,000 engineers each year until 2024. But, even by 2024, the range of expertise needed by many engineers will have changed.”


Winning projects 

Collaborate to Innovate’s initiative awards engineering innovation in these categories: 

  • Aerospace, Defence & Security
  • Automotive
  • Energy & Environment
  • Healthcare & Medical
  • Information, Data & Connectivity
  • Manufacturing Technology 

You can read up on all of the winning projects by clicking here. 

The winning project for the Information, Data & Connectivity category involved a technological setup that could alert engineers of the structural integrity of bridges in danger of collapsing. The project was developed by a startup company from the University of Nottingham in conjunction with Leica Geosystems, Geomatic Ventures Limited, and China Railway Major Bridge Reconnaissance & Design Institute (BRDI). 

In C2I’s report, they explained how their GeoSHM system works, “GeoSHM (GNSS and Earth Observation for Structural Health Monitoring) uses multiple space technologies combined with in-situ sensors to provide a real-time picture of bridge movement and stresses. 

“At the core of the system are GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers that pick up positional data via the GPS, Galileo, and BeiDou Navigation Satellite (BDS) constellations. This real-time monitoring is complemented by interferometric synthetic-aperture radar (InSAR) data provided by Earth Observations (EO) satellites that can track potential ground subsidence of the structure”.

The companies worked on the project with the Ponte Morandi bridge collapse (that occurred in Genoa, Italy in 2018) in mind - an unexpected failure that led to 43 fatalities. The bridge-monitoring technology has been in development for the last 15 years, but it is the collaboration between companies cross-continent that is unlocking the potential of the technology and finally getting it to market. 

Professor Xiaolin Meng, director of Nottingham University’s Sino-UK Geospatial Engineering Center told the Engineer magazine, “By collaborating with BRDI and providing our expertise in earth observation and monitoring technologies, we can help improve the way that bridges are constructed.  

“The wide-reaching range of geospatial data that we are able to provide through our research work also has massive potential in helping to develop smart transport management solutions within the big cities in the UK and China.”  

The engineers are putting together a data strategy for their project, which will culminate in the creation of a database that will help structural engineers on a specific bridge understand how environmental conditions are impacting the structural integrity of their bridge. The collaborative effort with all of the engineers bringing their own expertise to the project has turned the technology into a multifaceted system that could help secure bridges in the future. The projects recognized at the C2I Awards show that collaboration is the key to innovation, instead of the political isolationism the world is currently seeing.


Works Cited

Excell, Jon. “Collaborate to Innovate 2019 Winners Announced.” The Engineer, 7 Nov. 2019, www.theengineer.co.uk/c2i2019-winners-announced/.

“This Is Engineering: Home.” ..., www.thisisengineering.org.uk/.

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