Decoding the Global Engineering Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities

Currently, the world is undergoing a dramatic digital transformation with engineers as architects. India is uniquely positioned as a key talent and R&D hub, set to fuel this revolution at a global scale. The global ER&D landscape has been on a steep upward trajectory, having displayed resistance against economic pressures. Recently, we are also seeing increasing focus on technology solutions for social impact and sustainability – a key part of the agenda of India’s recently concluded G20 Summit as well. 
In this context, Mr. Ed Almond, Chief Executive and Secretary, The Institution of Engineering and Technology (Global) , sheds light on the challenges and opportunities in the global engineering landscape: 

1) It has been widely recognised that the technology sector has been witnessing exceptional growth over the past year. What are some factors contributing to these tailwinds?

I think the primary reason behind the exceptional growth of the technology sector is the ongoing Artificial Intelligence-led digital transformation, that has accelerated the global demand for automation, IoT, and digital twins. Consequently, traditional industries like Manufacturing and Production, as well as Infrastructure and Transport have started investing significantly in AI. India is among the top 10 countries globally in technological advancements and funding for AI, with a projected 20% growth in the AI market over the next five years.

With the current global economic instability, companies are facing product shortages, supply chain issues and increased product costs. To mitigate this, companies will have to diversify their suppliers, which could lead to further growth.

Tech companies are also improving the efficiencies of systems that are at an infant stage of digital transformation. Healthcare is a prime example of this amalgamation. The global digital health market is estimated at US$211 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach US$1.5 trillion by 2030.

2) What differences do you see between the engineering ecosystem in the UK and India? How does India compare to global technology adoption and innovation?

The engineering ecosystems in the UK and India reflect the diverse economic, educational, and industrial landscapes in each country.

In the UK, we have a well-established engineering ecosystem, thanks to our developed economy and advanced infrastructure industries like energy, transport, healthcare, and information technology / digital.

India’s aim to achieve a $ 5 trillion economy by 2025 is also technology-supported. Industry 4.0 is projected to reach USD 4 trillion by 2020, driving technological evolution through blockchain, quantum computing, drone utilisation, and big data.

In the UK, there’s a substantial investment in R&D for innovation, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and cutting-edge technologies.

During my recent visit to India, I made some interesting observations regarding innovation in software and technology. The large-scale digital payment revolution, with the Unified Payments Interface ( UPI), forms the backbone of India’s digital ecosystem. Digital transactions in India last year valued far more than the US, Britain, Germany, and France. India has also built the second-largest 5G ecosystem with three lakh sites across 714 districts. The country is also preparing to lead the 6G revolution.

Government initiatives like “Make in India” and “Digital India” promote innovation across industries.

In essence, the engineering ecosystems in the UK and India offer distinct strengths and challenges, each contributing to the global landscape in its own way.

3) Currently, one of the biggest challenges faced by the technology industry is an industry-academia skills gap. How can this be bridged?

We need to create stronger partnerships between tech companies and educational institutions to address this gap.
A key challenge I’ve observed in the Indian education ecosystem, despite the excellence in the university curriculum, is the gap to be filled concerning solving real-world challenges. Here, the professional certifications provided by the IET can help. Students can learn how to apply complex concepts like the Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) approach to solve day-to-day problems and become experienced professionals.

Establishing mechanisms for regular feedback from industry professionals to academia can help update academic programs according to the latest industry trends, making graduates more job-ready. We should also provide professional development opportunities for educators through workshops, seminars, and industry immersion programs. IET India is also conducting a Skills Gap survey to understand the emerging gap in skills needs related to engineering and technology in the current context of industrial growth. The study is expected to throw light on skills that are likely to emerge over the next 3-4 years in India.

Fostering collaboration, updating curricula, providing professional development, and creating pathways for practical experience can help us bridge this industry-academia gap.

4) How sustainable is the technology industry currently? What improvements can be made, and what are some ways in which technology can aid the global movement for carbon neutrality?

The tech industry is treading the path of sustainability. There are certain trends like ‘Design for sustainability’, where companies embed sustainability from the design stage of a product. I was reading about Bharat Forge, a prominent manufacturer of machinery and auto components, which is adopting practices to reduce the weight of automotive components by optimizing designs, characterizing material properties, incorporating a broader range of manufacturing processes, and using computer-aided engineering (CAE) techniques.

However, to attain complete sustainability, the industry must involve multiple stakeholders, including consumers, government officials, environmental advocates, and local communities to build a more comprehensive ecosystem and move towards a circular economy. It’s also important to include Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) to increase innovation and competitiveness, improve stakeholder engagement, and create market opportunities.

A notable concern is the substantial energy consumption by data centres and electronic device manufacturing. Although there are initiatives to transition toward renewable energy sources, the process remains in a developmental stage.

Electronic waste management is another challenge.  Fostering the design of energy-efficient products with prolonged lifecycles can significantly diminish electronic waste. While eco-friendly disposal and recycling practices for end-of-life electronic devices demand careful consideration. Addressing these challenges requires strategic improvements.

5) The IET has a global community of engineers and technologists. How do you plan to engage and collaborate with this diverse community to promote engineering excellence and social impact?

At the IET, we inspire, inform, and influence academia, industry, and government to address significant societal challenges at an international level.

Every year, we give out the IET India Scholarship Award of up to 10 lakh rupees to a student from all AICTE-approved undergraduate engineering programmes. 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students from all over India get an opportunity to showcase their innovation, and network with industry leaders and one of them wins the scholarship.

Additionally, our yearly IET India Awards facilitate engineering and technology changemakers in the Indian ecosystem. In 2023, we conducted a successful third edition of the Awards and announced winners from our Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award, Mobility Award, Youth Engineering Icon, Volunteering Award, Engineering the Future of Work Award, and IET India Future Tech Award categories. We also recognised the unparalleled contributions of Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Co-Founder of Infosys in the field of tech with the IET India Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other than awards, the IET Future Tech Panel comprising over 120 volunteers, works to disseminate knowledge about future technologies and create roadmaps for their adoption. The panel has organised four successful editions of the IoT India Congress with over 5,000 global attendees. In 2024, the panel will host the Future Tech Congress to decode augmented intelligence, quantum, nanotech, and future factories.

We also have geo-specific local networks across the world that enable collaboration among the IET members and volunteers from the same local area. These networks conduct multiple tech-centred events like lectures, seminars, and conferences. IET India alone proudly boasts eight local networks responsible for hosting 300+ Events across India.


6) How can membership in professional bodies like the IET help engineers both in terms of personal growth and in contributing to national development? 

Engineers are ingenious problem solvers with the right skills to tackle societal challenges of national importance.

Belonging to a reputable professional body like the IET provides a platform for continuous learning and skill development at every stage of an individual’s career. Students and fresh graduates get access to a huge knowledge base through virtual libraries containing various books, journals, papers, articles, and magazines. As well as that, they have access to unparalleled global support networks with professionals, mentors, and industry leaders, who can provide career-related advice before the students step into the real world. The IET’s scholarship programs also encourage innovation among young engineers.
Being a member of the IET provides exceptional exposure to a wealth of resources, including seminars, workshops, and publications that keep them abreast of the latest advancements in their field.

Networking is another valuable aspect. Professional bodies facilitate connections with fellow engineers, industry leaders, and experts. Engaging in such networks not only broadens one’s perspective but also opens opportunities for mentorship, collaboration, and career advancement. The exchange of ideas and experiences within these communities can inspire personal growth and career progression.