One of the themes of my Presidential year has been to explore the opportunities that broadening our membership base offers to ICE and our members.
It has long been my belief that opening our doors to a broader membership will deepen our expertise on a range of infrastructure challenges.
At the heart of the ICE’s mission is to qualify and support civil engineers and technicians. I know just how valuable membership of the Institution is and how much it means to engineers. But there are many other professionals who spend their whole careers contributing to the creation of infrastructure - who may never seek to qualify as engineers - but who nevertheless would value and benefit from a closer relationship with the ICE.
This, of course, would be of mutual benefit to the Institution and its members. We all want to extend our professional networks and seek access to the very widest knowledge pool so we can be the best at what we do.
In all corners of the ICE we have the privilege of working with some of the best experts in their own fields, yet whose qualifications are not in engineering. Dr Philipp Grünewald, who recently co-authored our flagship electricity storage report, is just one example. Earlier this year, he gave evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee on ICE’s behalf, supporting our goal to provide independent, expert opinion across the political spectrum, and to inform the debate.
Grünewald embodies the very expertise and knowledge we would like to welcome into our Institution, and I’m pleased to say that we have done just that by recently recognising him with an ICE Fellowship. However, it would not have been possible to bring him into our membership without this, despite the fact that he is vastly qualified, continually adds value and greatly enriches our knowledge base.
There are thousands of other professionals just like him. We are missing the opportunity to engage with the built environment industry in its entirety, and with more credibility.
Crossrail, Thames Tideway and the Queensferry Crossing, for example, rely not only on the expertise and ingenuity of civil engineers and technicians, but also from a raft of other professionals – lawyers, planners, architects, project managers and others – who all play a vital role in successful project delivery.
By opening our membership, we can increase cross discipline collaboration. We will further deepen our collective pool of knowledge; and in turn we will be more relevant to society and more influential.
We must not step away from this because it is too hard or too controversial. If we do, we risk being marginalised by economists, financiers, planners and think tanks. We will then only be asked to do the technical calculations, whilst others are succeeding in being relevant.
Next month, ICE members will vote on a proposal to broaden the Associate Member grade to encompass a wider range of allied professionals. I hope you will join me in voting to accept the proposals.
- Sir John Armitt is ICE President