New series of films launched to celebrate World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development

04 March 2022

RAEng_World Engineering Day 2022_engineering heroes films_Becoming X
RAEng_World Engineering Day 2022_engineering heroes films_Becoming X

Global ‘Engineering Heroes’, Tim Peake, Frances Arnold, Robert Langer & Nanxi Liu explain what drives them to create the future in inspirational films created by the Royal Academy of Engineering, BecomingX & Amazon.

On UNESCO World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development (4 March), a trio of bio ‘Engineering Heroes’ join British astronaut, Tim Peake in celebrating the role of engineering in shaping their careers, protecting the planet and delivering better healthcare, for a new series of films launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with BecomingX and Amazon.

The Engineering Heroes’ films will be shared on social media and distributed to schools through the BecomingX Education Programme and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Connecting STEM Teachers Network, supported by Amazon. They aim to inspire the next generation of young people, from all genders, ethnicities and parts of society, as well as challenging public perceptions of engineering.

European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake CMG is renowned for his enthusiastic promotion of science, technology, engineering & maths (STEM) education and careers to young people, explaining how STEM skills enabled him to travel into space. He also inspired millions of people during his time on the International Space Station by sharing stunning images of the Earth from orbit.

Tim’s film is being launched alongside three others that spotlight bio-engineering superstars:

•    Professor Frances Arnold FREng is a mechanical and chemical engineer who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2018 (the first American woman to do so) for her work in evolving enzymes in making fuels, chemicals and materials less harmful to the environment. These ‘new and improved’ enzymes are used today to make laundry detergents to biofuels (Gevo), non-toxic alternatives to pesticides (Provivi) and medicines (like anti-diabetic drug, Januvia).

•    Professor Robert Langer FREng is the most cited engineer in history and 2015 winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. He is probably best known as the co-founder of Moderna, the biotech start-up that was one of the first companies to pioneer the mRNA vaccines (used to tackle COVID-19). His innovations, including controlled release drug delivery systems and tissue engineering, have transformed a variety of medical treatments, enabling victims of serious accidents to re-grow missing tissue for example, and increasing the accuracy of treatment for brain cancer.

•    Nanxi Liu is an engineer and entrepreneur who by the age of 22 co-founded Nanoly Bioscience, a venture-backed biotech company that developed technology that enables vaccines to be transported without refrigeration. One of Forbes’ 30 under 30, Liu was also CEO & co-founder of Enplug, a leading digital signage company, which was successfully acquired. She is now co-CEO & co-founder of Blaze Technology, a platform that enables people to build software with no code.

The films are part of the ‘Engineering Heroes’ film series, which celebrates engineering and technology trailblazers and advocates, uncovering the inspiring stories behind their success and the challenges they overcame.

The release of the films follows findings from a recent report by EngineeringUK into secondary school teachers’ knowledge of engineering that recommended that more be done to promote engineering as an inclusive career. The report concluded that “teachers’ perceptions of the workforce, including barriers they perceive are faced by women, people from minority ethnic groups, those with disabilities and those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, may affect the way in which they provide careers advice and to whom,” and therefore recommended that those engaging with young people in careers advice work to instil confidence in all young people that they have the capability to become an engineer.

Major Tim Peake CMG says about his involvement: “Looking down at Earth from space changes your perspective. It's currently the only planet we know of that harbours life. Seeing this magnificent blue jewel, in its natural place within the solar system, leaves a lasting impression of how fragile our existence is and how we need to work together to protect our home.

Engineering has taken me to space, and has led others to develop ways of living on Earth more sustainably, and to invent life-saving vaccines and transport them to every corner of the globe. These are just some of the advances engineers are making that are helping our world to become better today. Tomorrow rests in the hands of the next generation. I hope my story helps inspire some of them to take their own giant leaps towards engineering a brighter future for themselves and our planet.

‘Engineering Heroes’ features other notable engineers, such as Dame Stephanie Shirley, Professor Sue Black and Ursula Burns. It forms part of the 'This is Engineering' campaign, which features real young engineers who have followed what they loved into engineering, and joins the established BecomingX series of films featuring Olympic Gold Medallists, Nobel Peace Prize winners and Oscar winners.

RAEng_World Engineering Day 2022_engineering heroes films
RAEng_World Engineering Day 2022_engineering heroes films

A key part of the Academy’s partnership with Amazon is to attract young people from all backgrounds into engineering and computer science careers as part of Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon’s comprehensive childhood-to-career programme which aims to inspire, educate and enable children and young adults from lower-income backgrounds to try computer science and pursue careers in this field.

This includes the Amazon Future Engineer bursary scheme to support women students from low-income households studying computer science and related engineering courses at UK universities, and Amazon’s support for the national Connecting STEM Teachers programme, a network for teachers across all STEM subjects that ensures they have the knowledge and confidence to engage a greater number and wider spectrum of school students with STEM. The programme works with 1,000 schools and operates across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The ‘Engineering Heroes’ films can be viewed at:

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering comments: “The Academy, Amazon and BecomingX share an ambition to inspire and support young people to become the next generation of engineers and computer scientists. These new films carry a powerful message that anyone can follow their passion and become an engineer, and that engineering innovation is central to addressing global challenges, such as improving healthcare and tackling climate change.

Engineering is a fantastic career if you want to make a difference, improve people’s lives and shape the future. By sharing these stories, we want to inspire many more people from all parts of society to become engineers: engineering is for everyone and we need our engineering community to better reflect the society we serve.

Lauren Kisser, Director at Amazon’s Development Centre in Cambridge & Head of Alexa AI Information said: “World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development is a brilliant way to inspire the next generation of future engineers and celebrate the important work engineers do to create a more sustainable future. Role models have played a crucial part in my career and I believe they are key to engaging young people, especially young women and girls, and showcasing the range of fascinating careers in engineering. By sharing the stories of our Engineering Heroes – Tim Peake, Frances Arnold, Nanxi Liu and Robert Langer – as part of our Amazon Future Engineer programme, we want to encourage the next generation to consider what an engineering and computer science career might look like.

Paul Gurney, CEO & co-founder of BecomingX said: “For many young people, the thought of becoming an engineer feels like a daunting prospect. While they see the benefits of phones, software, electric cars and medical technologies, they rarely get to see the people behind these technologies and engineering projects that have revolutionised our society. This collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering and Amazon aims to change this and demystify engineers, showing young people that engineering is accessible to them, no matter what their background may be. We’re proud to feature four people in this series who all came from quite humble beginnings; people who worked hard to get to where they are, who failed on many occasions, but never gave up on their dreams of using engineering to create a better world for us all.

All the films can be viewed at:



Professor Frances Arnold FREng became a globally recognised chemical engineer and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for chemistry

A rebellious teenager who moved out of home, Frances was often absent from school and had low grades. However, after almost perfect scores in her SATs, she was accepted to study engineering at Princeton. She went on to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering and her work on enzymes is now used in laboratories to make everything from advanced medicines to biofuels and laundry detergents. In 2018, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on enzymes, making her the first American woman to receive the award. These achievements are made more remarkable by the fact that Professor Arnold has not only survived breast cancer, but also experienced considerable loss in her life – losing both a husband and a son.

Professor Robert Langer FREng became the world’s most cited engineer and winner of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

Growing up in a small house in Albany, New York, Bob enjoyed maths, science and magic tricks, but he left school unsure what to do next. While studying at Cornell, he realised how much he enjoyed chemistry, which became his major. After later graduating from MIT, he received over 20 offers from oil companies, all of which he rejected, as he was driven to help others more directly. He accepted a research position at a hospital and his intense curiosity and focus led him to become the most cited engineer in history, a chemical engineering professor at MIT, and one of the leading scientists behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010, and won the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the world’s leading award for engineers and engineering, in 2015.

RAEng_World Engineering Day 2022_engineering heroes
RAEng_World Engineering Day 2022_engineering heroes

Nanxi Liu became the co-founder of two award-winning technology companies before she was 22

After growing up in rural China, Nanxi moved to the US aged five. She excelled at school and gained a place at UC Berkeley. Nanxi funded her studies by building and selling apps and entering hacking competitions, including winning $10,000 for an app which messaged the police. She co-founded Nanoly Bioscience, a biotech company, in her senior year of college, which helps safely store vaccines at higher temperatures. She then co-founded Enplug, a leading digital signage software company, used by thousands of companies worldwide, which was acquired. She has also won an EMMY as a TV producer, sits on the board of, is a concert pianist, and was recognised in the Forbes 30 under 30. She is now co-CEO & co-founder of Blaze Technology, a no-code software tool.

Tim Peake CMG became the UK’s most famous astronaut, after spending six months on the International Space Station

While Tim loved physics and maths at school, he was never academically brilliant and left school on completion of his A'Levels to attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Tim was always passionate about flying, and after serving in the British Army Air Corps as an officer and test pilot, he decided to apply to become an astronaut, seeing the space station as a testbed for cutting edge technologies. After the gruelling year-long selection process, he was accepted from 9,000 applicants as one of six new astronauts to join the European Space Agency. This led to Tim going on a six-month space mission and becoming a spokesperson for astronauts worldwide. During Tim's mission, his education outreach programme reached over two million schoolchildren and continues to inspire students today. In 2019, Tim won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Rooke Award for the public promotion of engineering.

About This is Engineering:

This is Engineering is a campaign to raise awareness of the breadth of careers in engineering and help address the significant engineering skills and diversity shortfall that is holding back growth and productivity across the UK economy. The campaign aims to give more young people, from the broadest possible backgrounds, the opportunity to take up an exciting, engaging, rewarding and in demand career.

This is Engineering  is led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, in collaboration with EngineeringUK. The campaign has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering and our corporate partners, including Amazon. More information about the campaign is available at: and @ThisIsEng on Twitter.

About Amazon:

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession, rather than competitor focus; passion or invention; commitment to operational excellence; and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalised recommendations, Prime, Fulfilment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit: and follow @AmazonNewsUK.

About Amazon Future Engineer:

As part of Amazon in the Community, Amazon Future Engineer is a comprehensive childhood-to-career programme aiming to inspire, educate and enable children and young adults from lower-income backgrounds to try computer science, and pursue careers in this field.

About Becoming X:

BecomingX is a learning and development organisation that aims to create a world where everyone can realise their potential. BecomingX works with the world’s most inspiring and iconic people to understand the personal attributes that underpin high performance and to help demystify what it really takes to succeed. Combining in-depth understanding of high performance and expertise in personal development, BecomingX helps education providers and companies to build the skills, knowledge, attitudes and relationships needed to succeed. BecomingX is a ‘B Corporation’, certified to meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact and is the highest scoring education company in the UK. Visit:

World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development (WED) is an official International day proclaimed in 2019 by the United Nationals Educations, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). This was based on a proposal from the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO). WED is an opportunity to celebrate engineering and the contribution of the world’s engineers for a better, sustainable world.

The Royal Academy of Engineering ( is harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone. In collaboration with our Fellows and partners, we’re growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, and influencing policy and engaging the public. Together we’re working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age. Visit: and follow @RAEngNews

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