The Science Minister, David Willetts, has announced that our greatest national assets - our universities, our science facilities and researchers - are the best single hope for making our way in the high-tech world of the future, creating jobs and opportunities and boosting high tech economic growth.
Mr Willetts is right in saying that the way to achieve this is through advancements in science and technology and his suggestion of creating new universities, partnerships or campuses dedicated to scientific teaching and research is a positive step. It is too early however, to comment on how successful they might be.
Whilst developing these new type of institutions, government should learn from the lessons of existing higher education establishments. It is extremely important to ensure that the right areas of technology are identified. For example, engineering is the way to deliver high-tech growth and a focus on this is crucial if the government is to achieve its aim of making the UK the best in the world for science and technology.
The government should seek expert advice to ensure that these new institutions are robust, teach the right things and are successful.
Ensuring we have a new generation of engineers and technicians is vital to ensure we rebalance our economy. The review of vocational qualifications by the government and the announcement that the Engineering Diploma is to be downgraded has surprised and stunned the engineering community.
The Engineering Diploma is widely recognised as a significant route to providing the crucial technical and practical skills that young people will need to build a Britain that can compete effectively and internationally. Industry and the professional engineering institutions have worked extensively to make this 14-19 qualification a highly robust and attractive qualification, which has now been undermined by the government's premature decision to downgrade its worth.
As part of a wide-ranging review into vocational education, the engineering qualification developed by JCB, Rolls Royce, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the University of Cambridge, will in future count as only one GCSE rather than five as is the case now in school performance league tables.
If the government is serious in its effort to rebalance the economy away from single sectors to a broader base we cannot afford to reduce our engineering capability so swiftly.
The government must recognise that qualifications such as the Engineering Diploma will be at the heart of achieving improvements to the economy and supporting a pipeline of future apprentices, technicians and engineers.
The government will fail many of our young people if it does not provide a high-quality alternative to traditional academic routes.
Meanwhile, the IET continues to engage with schoolchildren through the Faraday education programme which includes 55 challenge days at schools across the UK.
The Faraday Challenge Days aim to encourage more young people to study and consider exciting and rewarding careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by encouraging creativity, innovation and problem solving skills.
Each event involves six school teams each made up of six 12- to 13-year-old students studying Science, Design Technology and Maths.
The challenge is unveiled afresh at each event, so it's top secret until then, but with the Olympics less than a year away, we can say that it will be about finding a solution to a real engineering problem linked directly to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is a great way to show young people the vital role engineering has played in the Olympics.
Each team member in the winning group will be awarded a prize and a trophy for their school. The top three teams from across the UK will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the national final in London in June 2012 to compete for a cash prize of up to £1,000 for their school.
The Faraday Challenge Days are part of a wider Faraday education programme, made up of a whole host of teaching resources and activities to inspire and attract the engineers of tomorrow.
The 2011/12 season of Faraday Challenge Days has been granted the Inspire mark by the London 2012 Inspire programme. The London 2012 Inspire programme recognises innovative and exceptional projects that are directly inspired by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.