Increase in Civil Engineering Innovativity

by Wilfried B. Kr˝tzig
O.Prof. Dr.-ing. Dr.-ing. E.h.

Ruhr-Universit˝t Bochum, Statik und Dynamik

European Engineering Education and research has formed the basis of European prosperity. Global economic changes require strong innovative impacts of the curricula of the great engineering schools in Europe as well as in the US and other industrialized parts of the world. Important elements of this engineering innovativity are a sound knowledge in basic sciences, in standard engineering techniques, further the pursuit for new horizons in technology, all closely referred towards technical applications. The rehabilitation of the infrastructure in the new Federal Countries after the German unification, the necessity of environmental improvements in the densely populated European West, improvements of infrastructure, living, working and environmental conditions in many eastern parts for Central Europe, thus briefly: The realization of the unified European market will put intensive additional demands on European Civil engineering. As a modern key industry in national economies, civil engineering has to provide for advanced design and fabrication techniques, for high quality in execution, all as basis for attractive permanent employment.

This all requires a drastic increase in present innovativity in European Civil Engineering Education. European Engineering Schools have contributed in the last 150 years enormously to the wealth of their societies by forming an important knowledge-base for world-wide industrialized competition. Especially in the saturated economies of Western Europe this historical fact seems to sink into oblivion. Forgetfulness also covers the fact, that Engineering Schools serve as supplies of technical knowledge for competitiveness with respect to working power, material resources, energy and capital. Which fundamental changes have to be initiated in European Civil Engineering Education to maintain by high technical standards the prosperity of European nations compared with the young "Tiger-Economies" in Asia? The author discovers five important modifications.

  1. In many European countries, particularly in Germany, the highschool education in natural science is by far insufficient for modern civil engineering studies forming an important handicap for more innovative components in our engineering profession. Science lays the foundation of any technology, thus only a sound highschool knowledge of physics; chemistry, biology (and mathematics!) admits a successful education in civil engineering.

  2. The belief in 4-years (master- or Dipl.-Ing.-) civil engineering curricula up to a modern level of professional innovativity is and illusion. In countries in which such a curriculum is mandatory, the level of knowledge has either sunk below that of engineering tasks in the next century or civil engineering has specialized into subdisciplines too narrow for satisfactory professional careers. Thus 5-years curricula should become the European standard in civil engineering education.

  3. The scientific basis in civil engineering curricula - mathematics, physics,, chemistry; most of all: applied mechanics; fluid, soil- and structural mechanics as well as material science - must be strengthened considerably, since from these sources innovative engineering techniques generally start. Already Thomas Alva Edison, who ran his famous think-tank-firm in New York around 100 years ago, recognized: Missing innovative success generally originates in insufficient basic engineering knowledge.

  4. At least in Germany short-sighted politicians presently do not invest sufficient amounts of money into engineering education appropriate for the necessary High-Tech-Training. In Germany and other European countries the society lacks of consciousness that only the creativity of future engineers will create stable and permanent employment.

  5. European civil engineering students should be educated with more emphasis towards future world-wide technological co-operations. This requires an increase in technical foreign language training as well as and orientation toward innovative global engineering careers.

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