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Innovation must be industry led

ANALYSIS

Dr Scott Steedman (NCE 10 June) advocates that civil engineering requires information technolgoy specialists to provide its strategy and that this impetus should come via Government funding. Innovation will only be meaningful when it is commercially driven from within the industry to satisfy a business need - not driven by technology for technology's sake.

Engineering managers create the dream and the electronic gurus should simply make it technically possible. Pure computing power will never be a substitute for the innovation and ingenuity of the engineer.

In the future, competitive advantage will accrue from the management of data - converting it into the information, which when communicated across integrated business streams will lead to a better understanding and then effectively and efficiently satisfy our clients' needs - not by creating simulation models of soil particles with their heterogeneous physical properties.

Our aim must be to create an internal business environment, which encourages and stimulates strategic thinking from all levels, to influence the decision- makers. Only those firms which can harness technology and use it to satisfy market-driven needs will survive. Technology is not the Holy Grail - only a tool which may allow us to operate in new and exciting ways.

R.M.Irwin (F), e-mail: irwin.rm@bgep.co.uk

Environmentalists - who needs them?

If I understood Stephen Joseph correctly (NCE last week), environmentalists and the Transport 2000 group, believe that infrastructure providers should make no attempt to make supply match demand with regard to the car. The transport green paper makes no attempt to assess the requirements of different traveller categories, nor does it set standards of delivery.

Instead, it presumes a social engineering solution in which damage to the environment and a presumed lack of finance justify mediocre infrastructure services.

These are the standards Stephen Joseph appears to accept on my behalf. If the concept of sustainability means anything at all (when it is applied to infrastructure) it is that one first gets the infrastructure right and then sustains it. Inadequate infrastructure is not worth sustaining. Getting it right implies allowing a prudent excess for future demand and for routine maintenance.

Naturally one should try to minimise permanent damage to

the environment, but it is absurd to suppose that zero damage is either desirable or possible. Indeed, it is probably impossible to define zero damage because perception will be an important aspect of any definition.

In short, a solution that makes services worse is no solution at all. So who needs environmentalists who deliver no services? Not me.

Robin Smitherman (M), Garsdale House, Garsdale, Frome, Somerset BA11 1RX

Universal status

I waited with keen interest for a glimpse of an article in NCE relating to the last Miss Universe contest, but to my surprise - though expected - nothing came along.

Perhaps readers may now wish to be informed that an aspiring civil engineer was crowned Miss Universe a couple of weeks ago. I feel these are the kind of events that deserve a sentence or two in NCE, especially nowadays when we cry out for status in society. It is all about positive publicity, and where better to ask for it than on the world stage watched by millions. At least for once, we can be associated with beauty in the non-technical sense.

As far as I am concerned, this is all about status and it is indeed far from being boring.

Ousman Sanyang (A), 73 Mount Pleasant Road, New Malden, Surrey KT3 3LA

Repair system is tried and tested

In reply to the 'Corrosion Query' (NCE 10 June), we make the following points regarding Renderoc Galvashield XP.

From our extensive test data we can confirm that any voids formed by the sacrificial loss of the zinc are filled with ionically conductive pore solution.

Although protection will be exhausted after the zinc is depleted, Galvashield's life expectancy is more than 10 years - significantly longer than traditional patch repairs.

RF Viles, technology manager, Fosroc, Coleshill Road, Tamworth, Staffordshire B78 3TL

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