You will be aware that her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has instituted a biennial prize for exceptional advances in engineering. The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a global £1 million prize that aims to raise the public profile of engineering and inspire young people to take up the challenges of the future and become engineers. The QEPrize was launched in 2011 to address the need for more engineers and to celebrate the remarkable achievements of today’s engineers. There is no Nobel Prize for engineering, and the QEPrize aspires to fill this void, giving engineers the recognition they deserve. This single global prize is awarded to one individual, or a team of up to three, responsible for a groundbreaking advance in engineering which has created significant benefit to humanity.

The QEPrize is awarded biennially and the search for the winner(s) demonstrates the importance of engineering to society across the world.  The five inaugural joint winners of the QEPrize, awarded in 2013 by HM The Queen, were Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf and Louis Pouzin who were recognised for their contributions to the protocols that make up the fundamental architecture of the Internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, for inventing the World Wide Web and Marc Andreessen, who wrote, with colleagues, the Mosaic browser.

As President (elect) of the Institution of Civil Engineers I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed as a ‘Scout’ to help identify potential nominees for the prize. I have drawn up a list of four potential themes from which I believe the winning entry might be drawn, but there may be others. I would greatly appreciate your knowledge and expertise in recommending any particularly outstanding projects or engineers who might be worthy of nomination:


Modern Tunnelling Techniques

The ability to place modern infrastructure underground has allowed cities to develop to high density without compromising the essential services on which they depend. The ability to tunnel accurately and very close to existing infrastructure and the foundations of buildings, and also in difficult ground, has done much to support the economic growth of cities.

Off-shore Engineering

The ability to construct offshore platforms for oil and gas extraction has enabled the world to secure a significant proportion of its energy from these sources. In particular the development of foundation systems that allows prefabricated structures to be installed in deep water. This technology is now being applied to off-shore wind farms and wave generators thus promoting the uptake of sustainable energy sources.

Sustainable Drainage Systems

A novel approach to draining urban areas that replicates natural processes has demonstrated benefits in managing flooding and water pollution that arises from development. Added benefits are improved bio-diversity and amenity.

Floating Homes

Recently promoted by Lord Smith as useful in building resilience to flooding in the UK, these have been developed and proven in the Netherlands.

In my visits I see a wide range of projects across many disciplines.  But I am conscious that, if we are to identify the projects with the very greatest chance of success, we should cast the civil engineering net as wide as we can.  Therefore, if, in your travels you find that you have found a potential nominee I would be grateful if you would pass your thoughts on.  Nominations are now open and will close next month. In the meantime, if you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at president@ice.org.uk

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