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Lighthouse | At the heart of sustainable development

More than 2,500 delegates from 82 countries gathered in One Great George Street at the end of October for the Global Engineering Congress.

They had the opportunity to listen to more than 200 speakers with expertise in engineering, sustainable development and infrastructure investment.

The headquarters of ICE has never been so vibrant and so charged with a desire to take action.

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The GEC attracted 2,500 delegates over five days

The Congress, endorsed with a message from the UN Secretary General, allowed for exactly the free exchange of ideas that the world needs if it is to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development  Goals (SDGs). But the important thing to remember is that this is the start of a process not the end.

The Congress in and of itself will solve nothing, but it will help to set the direction and give engineers from around the world something to coalesce around.

The action room at the Congress, manned by volunteers, collected and collated the themes, topics and discussions taking place across the event. These will now be considered and developed into a coherent route-map for what the global engineering community can do to achieve the SDGs.

This will be published shortly and will provide the foundations for future action.

For those of you who were not in attendance and were unable to take part in the discussions, there are still ways you can get involved and join the conversation. The ICE will be providing materials from the Congress across all its platforms, including social media and the website, to help spread the knowledge and awareness captured during the week.

The challenges that we as a world face are many, be they demographic, climate or population change, or the pace of technology.

They can feel overwhelming and distant, but we are beginning to see the impacts more and more frequently. The question of whether or not these changes are happening is becoming increasingly redundant, instead giving way to questions about what we need to do to overcome them.

What the Congress brought into stark relief was that change is affected by incremental and sustained actions, an accumulation of small actions. The route-map will give the global engineering profession a clear direction to achieve the SDGs, but this will only be made possible if we collectively accept that action must be taken.

The next step is to take the ideas being generated at the Congress and by the profession to heart and weave them into our daily lives. The smallest changes to behaviour, to the way projects are delivered, designed or maintained could be the things that give this movement critical mass.

We must also work together, remembering that our strength as a profession comes from our collective knowledge and passion, not our individualism.

Throughout history, engineers have had the foresight, expertise and tools to change the world for the better.

 Now, more than ever, the global engineering profession needs to embrace that legacy and add a new chapter that addresses the current state of the world – and the future we want to achieve.

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