CHIEF EXECUTIVE Mike Casebourne this week claimed that a partnership with the American Society of Civil Engineers would create a 'worldwide institution of civil engineers'.
The plan, revealed by NCE on 14 September, will give the 200,000 members of the ICE and ASCE instant access to a range of information via the internet, a facility that it is hoped will attract half a million practising civil engineers worldwide.
Ultimately it is hoped that members of the partnership will be able to work easily anywhere around the globe.
Both parties are expected to invest around £500,000 to make the partnership happen, and committed to it by signing 'The Edinburgh Accord' on 29 June. The accord also pledges to make reciprocal membership available to qualifying members.
Casebourne sees the partnership as creating a 'worldwide network of knowledgeable engineers who may have some influence in their own countries, and certainly have an interest in identifying best practice in other countries'.
The intention is for the network to contribute to the global development of issues such as engineering techniques, codes of practice, methods of management, contractual systems, academic standards and professional development, 'whether advanced for the most sophisticated economies or appropriate for developing countries'.
In the UK, the network will be accessible immediately to all ICE members, and will be open to members of other institutions who wish to subscribe. A similar policy will operate in the US.
Internationally, the network will not compete with membership of other nation's institutions: rather, it will become an 'add-on' to the indigenous institution.
In all cases (UK, US and international) the network will be funded directly through member subscriptions, which are set to rise as a consequence. For ICE members, Casebourne offers the reassurance that there will be 'nothing more than normal subscription development'.
So what are the claimed benefits? For UK and US members, the belief is that the international promotion of the ICE and ASCE brands will be such that membership will be regarded as 'an international gold standard passport. . . allowing members to work in any country'.
The network is intended to facilitate a real influence at global level, with representation in bodies such as the UN and at international summits.
Other more tangible benefits will include the joint products and services that will be freely available via the internet - likely to include all publications from both the ICE and ASCE.
Reciprocal membership is also likely to be seen as a major benefit, particularly for anyone wishing to work in the US. The details for this have been agreed.
To avoid the issue of 'who is best?' reciprocal membership will only be made available to fellows, members with 10 years post-graduation experience or members with five years membership.
Such members or fellows will be exempt from the process of entry into ASCE. It will not, however, exempt them from State Licensing Exams, which are compulsory to become a practising engineer in the US. Casebourne argues that this is not a major issue, as it is common practice for companies operating at inter-state level to have QA procedures that avoid the issue of licenses becoming a problem.
Both UK and US members wishing to take advantage of the reciprocal membership will be required to pay the standard international subscription rates of the relevant institution.
It is intended that subscribers to the worldwide ICE will also be encouraged to enhance their own personal qualifications by achieving combined membership of ICE and ASCE. Although the details are yet to be established, it has been agreed that the ICE system will be used, with reviews conducted locally by ICE trained reviewers.
Both parties have agreed that the partnership will be supported and operated financially by a formal joint venture agreement which will split the costs, risks and ultimately, it is hoped, revenues.
A number of working groups have been set up, all of which report early next year. These will be looking at issues like the name of the partnership, costs and revenues of e-commerce ventures, membership and public relations.
The ASCE has a membership of over 122,000 and an annual operating budget of $46M (£29M). It was established in 1852, making it the oldest national professional engineering society in the US.
The society is 'dedicated to enhancing the welfare of humanity through the advancement of the science and profession of engineering'.
Its structure has parallels with the ICE, with a 28-member 'board of direction' governing the society. The board is presided over by Dr Delon Hampton, who is assisted by executive director James Davis.
The Edinburgh Accord was signed by Hampton and Davis, along with their ICE counterparts President George Fleming and Chief Executive Mike Casebourne.