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Size matters

Viewpoint - An ICE/IMechE merger will lend the profession a bigger voice in government.

Instead of attending The Labour Party conference in Manchester this year, like all good party members, I found myself heading south to an extraordinary meeting of my own - the first joint meeting of the ICE and IMechE at One Great George Street.

I wanted these discussions to succeed in order that engineers are heard and consulted on key global issues. Our combined expertise simple cannot be ignored by policymakers of any political persuasion as they, at long last, begin the task of confronting unprecedented global environment and energy challenges.

The atmosphere at the meeting was something akin to that of a gathering of relatives before an engagement is announced. Everybody wore their best clothes and the set speeches had been rehearsed repeatedly. The turnout only reflected the gravity and historical importance of the event.

During the presentations, great emphasis was placed on how much the two institutions had in common and much was made of the joint projects that have been successfully developed, and negotiated between members in recent years.

Everyone in the room knew that these initiatives were just the first of many that could help us realise the potential of the expert knowledge locked up in both institutions.

There is something about being in the same room as some of the most innovative successful engineers in the UK, people who care passionately not just about their own discipline, but also the future of professional engineering.

Council members from both institutions know that in order to survive we cannot stand still.

Merger is a fact of working life and the institutions that seek to support engineers in their day-to-day existence must re ct this reality. But they will not sacrifice quality in order to appeal to the masses and shore up membership. Our joint legacy is simply too great to allow us to do that.

I believe our two institutions share a common set of values and possess the skill and strength of character not only to enter into a merger, but also to signicantly inuence public policy and the shape of professional engineering in the UK.

The announcement of formal discussions means that the two institutions are making a consistent and conscious effort to share our expertise in a way that has simply not been done in the past, despite the fact that we have been next door neighbours for generations.

I applaud the leadership of both institutions that have had the courage to explore a joint venture. But for any good marriage to work the partners must have the support of good friends and relatives.

These discussions are being watched by many, some of whom have a clear desire to see them fail, for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to improve the status of professional engineering within the UK. I want them to succeed, because our members need to have their voices heard and, unfortunately, size does matter.

Claire Curtis-Thomas CEng, FIMechE is MP for Crosby, Merseyside

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