Coackley stresses importance of increasing research and development investment in first interview as ICE president

The incoming president of the Institute of Civil Engineers has warned that the UK will fail to meet its infrastructure challenge without a radical increase in research and development investment by engineers and the government.

Richard Coackley (pictured) declined to criticise the government over its commitment to sustainable infrastructure growth, despite the slashing of feed-in tariffs and the collapse of the carbon capture pilot scheme at Longannet power station, Fife, in recent weeks.

Coackley, who is also director of energy development at URS Scott Wilson, becomes the 147th ICE president this week and made the comments in his first interview with the press.

Coackley told Building: “Research and development innovation [is] the root of growth and what creates excitement in industry.

“The government has an opportunity to contribute to the very early part of R&D processes, and create the foundations for the education of scientists, engineers and technologists. Then industry can take on a bigger role in investment in R&D.”

According to the business department, UK firms spend just 1.7% of their turnover on R&D, compared with an average of 3.6% worldwide. “Whatever [R&D spending] is it’s never enough. We need to be spending more on R&D in the UK. Whether it’s engineering or science technology, it’s a very important message for British society,” Coakley added.

Coackley also called for a public debate on solutions for storing power generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind power, which have to be used when they are generated or else are lost.