Prizes worth a total of £35,000 are to be awarded for positive portrayals of engineers in the media.

Any film, television programme, play, book or radio play showing an engineer in a favorable light will be eligible for a £10,000 award and there are £8000 prizes for fictional civil and mechanical engineers and civil engineering surveyors.

The prize is the initiative of Gordon Masterton, the president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who personally put up £10,000.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors and the Royal Academy of Engineering have contributed the rest of the fund.

The scheme has been launched on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and seeks to address the industry-wide shortage of engineers.

"The UK is abundant with infrastructure projects, but we haven't got enough young engineers coming through," said Masterton.

"We are looking to reward fictional portrayals of engineers as exciting, innovative and bold as Brunel was, so that youngsters are inspired to think about engineering as a career. If either the Ross or Rachel characters in Friends had been a civil engineer, I have no doubt we would be attracting more applicants."

The precise terms of the scheme and its judging panel are expected to be announced this week.