If only…

An imaginative campaign to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers is launched today.

More than 60 well-known figures from the worlds of entertainment, sport, science and business have come up with “if only” ideas – one discovery or invention they wish existed.

They range from the selfish (Gary Lineker, former England footballer, wanted “A time machine so I could go back and play one extra game for England to become England’s all time highest ever scorer”) to the altruistic.

Many people chose solutions to climate change and the energy crisis. My favourite wish comes from Colin Blakemore, Oxford neuroscientist and former head of the Medical Research Council: “If only we had an attractive solution to global warming and the energy crisis. What about synthetic Wisteria, capable of performing artificial photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting sunlight to electricity, with its roots connected to the National Grid?”

Blakemore’s “if only” is one of several illustrated by the organisers of the National Engineering Competition. They’ll be accepting entries from 11-18 year olds before 30 October. Finals take place at the Big Bang Young Scientists’ and Engineers’ Fair in Manchester in March.

If you have children at secondary school in the UK, encourage them to have a go…

The world of research

The science blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Clive Cookson, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about, in fields from astronomy to zoology. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education. He'll cover the weird and wonderful, as well as the serious side of science.