How do "engineering leaders" work with large-scale "trends"?

Like matching against predicted requirements in renewable energy etc.

These seem like abstractly unknowable future states. Yet, "engineering leaders" seem to be able to ride the trends and collect the requirements needed to work on these trends.

Also, nowadays the projects are quite large-scale already, because they may touch even millions of people, or take tens of years to fully implement. It seems like black magic, because humans and human organizations have a lot of variables. One cannot e.g. control the supply of labour market.

So how do they progress in such?

  • $\begingroup$ But they do predict energy demand as that is how they avoid blackouts $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ @SolarMike But what they cannot predict is that they're able to match that demand. Because that depends on supply of labour and resources. Particularly one cannot control the labour supply, it either exists or not, depending on whether people educate themselves. But perhaps "engineering leaders" don't concern themselves with that, but rather go with the flow. After all, not much in life is certain. $\endgroup$
    – mavavilj
    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ One thing is certain : the quality of questions on here... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ They have to be able to meet electrical demand - and there are rapid response generation systems to do exactly that. Check out Dinorwig generation... $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ There are formalized methods to estimate which technology will be worth investing in, search for technology scouting, some companies put a lot of effort into it and a big part of research in technology management is about improving these methods or developing new ones $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2018 at 7:14

2 Answers 2


The strategic planning of long term projects isn't solely an engineering problem but also involves business, financial and political planning.

To take the example of renewable energy and to generalise somewhat.

First the technology needs to be developed and proven. This is usually an iterative process, initially on a relatively small scale. You first have prototypes then pilot schemes then full commercial roll-out Infrastructure technology often involves a degree of collaboration between business, technology and government.

For example government may stimulate demand by offering grants, tax breaks etc or by legislating to reduce the attractiveness of alternatives. For example if renewable energy is taxed at a lower rate than coal power, then that makes renewable a more attractive investment proposition.

Any new technology is a business risk and investors will calculate whether the potential return on investment justifies that risk. This calculation will involve both engineering feasibility studies and economic modelling to try to predict future economic conditions.

Equally while you can't completely control future markets you can trade in them, energy wholesale contracts may be agreed decades in advance and often energy infrastructure projects will include complex contracts which set pricing structures.


They don't.

What you call a trend, has usually been around for ages. Engineering on a large commercial scale does not really start until the fundamentals are known. This means that there has already been quite a lot of basic research going on, for years sometimes decades.

If nothing else, then the limitations and pitfalls of current tech is well known. Through mathematical modeling they can say what the limits of different technological methods are even before they overtake the competition. Therefore people in the R&D departments know what to look for, and revisit what is available from time to time. This is why photographing inside factories is a no-no as a person in the know can near instantaneously be able to spot the solution.

Big companies however, deliberately create demand. They don't just passively make things happen.

  • $\begingroup$ By the last statement, do you mean that they build more than is required. Then find a way to sell it. $\endgroup$
    – mavavilj
    Jun 21, 2018 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ @majavili No, they use other methods to force people into adopting the systems. They use massive marketing campigns, they lobby to get laws in place that force your hand etc. They give free education and training to lure new people. But generally a company does not saturate its worker pool until the markets are really mature. $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Jun 21, 2018 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ If that is what you mean then maybe call stimulate demand. $\endgroup$
    – paparazzo
    Jun 22, 2018 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @paparazzo maybe create demand is better? No? $\endgroup$
    – joojaa
    Jun 22, 2018 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ I was pretty clear. Word as you like. $\endgroup$
    – paparazzo
    Jun 22, 2018 at 19:40

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