Sweden and Norway honor scientists, economists, writers and peace activists each year with the Nobel Prize; now the United Kingdom wants to recognize engineers at the top of their field. On Nov. 17 in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron launched a $1.6-million biennial prize for engineering developments that significantly benefit humanity. To be called the Queen Elizabeth award, the prize will be open to teams of up to three people anywhere in the world.

An international expert judging panel, to be named in February, will issue the first call for prize nominations. Nominations will close in July 2012 and the winner will be named in December. The first award ceremony will take place in spring 2013.
Likening the award to the Nobel, Prime Minister Cameron said he hoped young people would be inspired about engineering as they once were. “For too long Britain’s economy has been over-reliant on consumer debt and financial services. We want to rebalance the economy so that Britain makes things again,” he said.
 “This prize will put on the world stage the engineers and engineering feats that are too often only recognised by our own industry,” says Richard Coackley, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. “It is further evidence that the importance of engineering to our society — particularly in driving economic growth”.

The not-for-profit Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation will manage the competition, with day-to-day administration by the Royal Academy of Engineering, London. It is being funded with initial an endowment from a dozen, British, German, Japanese and Indian engineering, pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies.