Engineering is the art and practice of changing and shaping the material world for the benefit of humankind—and engineers are the practitioners of this art. An engineer must have a clear understanding of the issues that need to be addressed and the science that will have what it takes to solve these issues. Unlike basic sciences, engineering is concerned not only with the knowledge of natural phenomena, but also how it serves humankind.
Thus, engineering involves the integration of knowledge, techniques, methods, and experiences from various fields. However, the methods of academic engineering research and the resulting insights into the nature of the physical world are indistinguishable from those of basic scientific research. Basic research in engineering is concerned with the discovery and systematic conceptual structuring of knowledge. Engineers develop, design, construct, and operate devices and systems of economic and societal merit.
All engineering research is driven by an application’s anticipated value. Not all potential applications are forecast; occasionally a conceptualized application might not be nearly as important as one that turns up by serendipity.
Engineering research aimed at achieving technical and economic progress must go beyond the knowledge on which the demonstration of technical feasibility of a new device is based. It must produce more in-depth and more quantitative information that will allow for continuing improvements in performance, economics, and range of application of the original invention or technical demonstration. Progress from steam engines to internal combustion engines and gas turbines was mainly the result of engineering research and development, although advances in engine and turbine materials benefited from scientific research in physics and chemistry.
The development of practical electronic computers was also aided by engineering research, along with mathematics and solid-state physics. Similar scenarios have played out in the fields of artificial intelligence, neural networks, and several other advancements in computer architecture and software.
Today a nation that is prosperous and secure is the one that is technically zealous. No nation expecting to access the global repository of fundamental knowledge to its competitive advantage can afford not to contribute to this repository. If the warehouse of fundamental knowledge is not being resupplied, the young minds who are to be the contributors to future engineering creativity will never be attracted to engineering research in the first place.
To subsidize opportunities created by scientific breakthroughs, a nation must have engineers who can invent new products and services, create new industries and jobs, and generate new fortunes. Clearly, it is in national interest to preserve a reasonable pipeline of knowledge and intellect. Applying technological advancements to accomplish global sustainability will require significant investment, creativity, and technical faculty.
Advances in nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, new materials, IT and communication technologies could lead to solutions about environmental, health, and security challenges, but their development and application will require significant investments of money and effort in engineering research. Supremacy in technological innovation requires leadership in all aspects of engineering: research to bridge scientific discovery and practical applications; education to give engineers the skills to create and leverage knowledge and technological advancement; and the practical application to translate the knowledge into innovation and competitive products and services.
Although future demand for specific science and engineering skills is challenging to foretell, it is reasonable to assume that the increasingly technical world will require technically proficient workforce. Future breakthroughs that depend on engineering research will have equally powerful strikes.
We can either choose to continue on our current track of gradually conceding technological leadership to trading partners abroad, or we can take redirect of our destiny and conduct the necessary research, capture intellectual property, commercialize and manufacture the products, and create the high-skill, high-value jobs that define a prosperous nation. Academic engineering research provides the setting for refined training and education of our nation's most able logical minds. It is from this reservoir of talent that the most creative technical ideas will emerge.
Exciting opportunities in engineering lie ahead. Some involve rapidly emerging fields, such IT, bioengineering, and nanotechnology. Others are of more national significance such as sustainable energy sources and homeland security. There are also that involve the revision of engineering courses to ensure that engineering graduates have the skills, understanding, and imagination to design and manage complex systems.
Technological innovations already under development can pave way to make all these things possible. To take advantage of these opportunities, investment in engineering research and education must become a priority. As other nations increase their investments in engineering research and education, India cannot risk retreating in critical research capabilities and ultimately the innovations that are bound to reap from research.
The value of engineering research is its capacity to solve real world problems. Engineering research has provided the systematic groundwork for the design, analysis, construction, and operation of products and systems. It has been academic only in its ambience and time frame; top notch academic engineering research is focused by goals of synthesis, design, analysis, construction, and operation but may be too risky, too hard, too generic, or too early from market application to interest engineering researchers working for private industry.