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Lighthouse | Tapping into knowledge and ingenuity

Every ICE President of recent years has identified supporting a skyrocketing urban population as one of the defining challenges for the current generation of engineers.

This is of course an immense technical challenge. 

But as each of those Presidents has stressed, we won’t succeed unless our engineering innovation and ingenuity creates cities that people want to live in.  

This is why responses from the public to the question, “I want to live in a city that…” is one of the jumping off points for ICE’s latest knowledge campaign, “Growing Cities & Building Resilience”.

We’ve created a treasure trove of new and curated engineering knowledge at that explores how we might go about meeting those needs. Your correspondent has already spent several happy hours weaving his way through the material, taking in everything from new technologies to land use, transport to housing.  

Elsewhere in this issue the NCE100 celebrates those firms that have walked the talk on collaboration, embracing technology and spreading best practice globally.  

This campaign provides a platform for individuals to do the same and I hope many readers will want to share their responses and ideas.  

But the campaign also highlights some big challenges for the whole engineering sector.  

In a fascinating short film, Steve Lewis, chief executive of tech provider Living PlanIT is disarmingly frank about some of our current failings. Technology has opened up immense opportunities to deliver more sustainable, liveable and resilient cities. In Lewis’ view however, these Smart Cities are still more of a concept than a reality.  

He believes that too many tech players have failed to deal with the complexity of construction and urban development. 

Products and services are developed and marketed, but there is a lack of real understanding of the complexities of urban life and the development process. 

His vision of the future is one where engineers and data scientists, materials scientists and biologists collaborate to plan, design and construct on much more dynamic timescales, powered by technology and data analysis.   

ICE Council is committed to ensuring the Institution makes its contribution to this future. Elsewhere in this issue President Sir John Armitt explains the ICE’s enduring mission to qualify and support civil engineers.  

He also argues that the pool of knowledge that we create to deliver that support will be enriched if we can draw on all those professionals who spend their life helping to

create and manage infrastructure.  

Many of these people will never seek to qualify as civil engineers but the Institution and, more importantly, its members will benefit hugely if we can engage and harness the knowledge of experts from across infrastructure and the built environment.  This is the case he makes for a positive response to the forthcoming members’ ballot to approve a broadening of our Associate Grade.  It is a powerful one.

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