Smart Machines & Factories
Academy maps out engineering challenges for recovery from COVID-19
Published:  13 May, 2020

The Royal Academy of Engineering has highlighted the key engineering-related risks and opportunities that COVID-19 poses for the UK beyond the immediate crisis response, drawing on the expertise of Academy Fellows and its partners in the National Engineering Policy Centre, who collectively represent 450,000 engineers across the UK.

The key engineering issues identified as critical for the UK’s medium and long-term recovery include:

Measures to take during the pandemic to lessen its impact

• National infrastructure resilience and interdependencies: protecting national infrastructure from additional strains and vulnerabilities from the current crisis, which may be exacerbated by interdependencies between them.

• Cybersecurity: mitigating against risks that may arise from large-scale remote working practices.

• Entrepreneurial ecosystem: ensuring the survival and quick bounce-back of R&D and innovation-intensive businesses, both large and small, on which future recovery and growth depends.

• Supply chain agility: understanding and mitigating supply chain disruptions during the pandemic.

Developing an exit strategy

• Infrastructure resilience: sequencing the reduction of social distancing and other interventions to minimise wider risks.

• Data portability and sharing: opportunities and robust engineering approaches to contribute to the lifting of social and behavioural interventions.

• Rebuilding the knowledge economy: measures to restart engineering sectors and investment in R&D.

Building a resilient future

• Building resilience to future emergencies, including through accelerated digitalisation and better understanding of which parts of the system are most sensitive to disruption and how they impact on each other.

• Rapid innovation and scale-up: lessons from the pandemic for better innovation practices.

• Changing attitudes and behaviours: exploring the impact of behaviour change, learning lessons from the crisis and wider implications, for example net zero.

• Addressing engineering skills and diversity challenges, taking advantage of the opportunities created by the pandemic as well as addressing the problems caused by it.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, commented: “The Academy is committed to supporting both the near-term and longer-term response to COVID-19 and to helping build resilience against future waves of this or other pandemics. Engineers play a major role in creating and maintaining the infrastructure and systems on which society and the economy depend, such as digital, mobility and healthcare. As we move into a recovery phase we want to encourage innovation and collaboration across all relevant areas of engineering, including healthcare systems, critical infrastructure, business management and the supply chain.”

Alongside its partners in the National Engineering Policy Centre, the Academy is now studying these issues in more detail to provide advice and guidance to government. For more information visit: