BUILDING INTERNATIONAL links is set to be a key theme of Doug Oakervee's presidential year.
Delivering the 139th ICE presidential address, Oakervee said the institution must set its sights much further than the boundaries of our shores.
He strongly believes that UK engineers have much to learn from overseas, an opinion formed from 24 years working in Hong Kong (see presidential profile, page 9).
'There are valuable lessons to be learnt from Hong Kong.
Engineers are highly respected and play a leading role in both government and politics, ' he said.
'Gone are the days of one centre of excellence for the entire world. Instead innovation is a roving animal which engineers must hunt down.'
Oakervee has a hectic year ahead, tracking down innovation in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.
'It is important that we are properly represented in these emerging areas to engage with developing technology and ensure our knowledge base does not stagnate.'
Back in the UK, raising the profile of the engineer is a subject close to his heart: 'Our objective must be to ensure that our stakeholders and society recognise the depth and quality of our knowledge bank and make it their first port of call.'
By reorganising the boundaries of the ICE Regions to match the eight regional development agencies and devolved bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Oakervee believes the Institution will be able to 'engage more actively with regional government strategy and planning'.
Oakervee wants to be even more radical when it comes to the role of the engineer.
He will look to the ICE's active graduates and students who, he said, have a better 'feel' for the current climate.
'I truly believe that we have reached a crucial moment in the history of engineering, where we need to carefully define what engineering means in the 21st century, what challenges it faces and what skills the engineer will need as a consequence.
'The time has come to take a clean sheet of paper and define this new requirement rather than trying to modify and adapt old practices developed for a different era.
'To do this properly we need to work in partnership with industry, academia and science, making sure we fully embrace the future technological, social, environmental and economic needs of the evolving global society, ' he said.
He challenged the current route to chartered status, which only allows engineers with 'acceptable degrees' to sit the chartered professional review.
This, he said, excludes many scientists, managers and technicians from contributing to the progress of the ICE.
This will soon change, with new standards from the Engineering Council (UK) - which do allow those without civils degrees to become chartered engineers (NCE last week) - coming into force in December.
Oakervee's year as president will also see him devote more energy to progress already made to unite the institutions of the built environment.
An avid supporter of proposals for a single institution of the built environment, he is keen to create a 'Society for the Environment' which would enable 'a more widely accessible professional qualification of Chartered Environmentalist'.
'The benefits of creating a single institution are enormous and would certainly provide a powerful, consolidated and widely informed voice able to react to the needs of the nation and the world in a holistic manner, rather than the piecemeal and frustrating responses possible today.'