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Unwin Lecture 2022: 21st century construction; the age of automation

Event organised by ICE

06 October 2022

This event has now ended

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The 2022 Unwin Lecture will take place on 6 October at One Great George Street, London. The lecture was created in 1948 to focus on engineering research and how technology could impact the capability of civil engineers.

This year’s lecture is focused on ‘21st Century Construction; the age of automation’ and will provide insight from Sarah Sharples from the Department for Transport and Dr Annette Pass from National Highways, on their research into how technology can create a more productive and safer construction site and how this changes the way civil engineers design and build infrastructure. Automation offers the industry a step change in how it approaches projects and how it tackles major obstacles from skills shortages to carbon reduction and the need for modernisation.

Over the course of the talk, we will explore the challenges that are driving the need for change in the sector, what we mean by connected autonomous plant and the next steps for the project, including the roadmap towards implementation. Join us to also pose your questions to the speakers and discuss the opportunities and implications of automation for your infrastructure projects.

The event will be chaired by Jim Hall, director of research in the school of geography and environment at the University of Oxford.


18:00 - 18:30

Registration and refreshments

18:30 - 18:35

Welcome from Professor Jim Hall

18:35 - 19:20

Keynote address by Professor Sarah Sharples and Dr Annette Pass

19:20 - 19:55

Q&A session and discussion

19:55 - 20:00

Closing remarks from Professor Jim Hall


Event close


Prof Jim Hall

Prof Jim Hall

University of Oxford

professor of climate and environmental risks

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Prof Jim Hall

An ICE Trustee, Jim Hall is internationally recognised for his research on risk analysis for water resource systems, flooding and coastal engineering, infrastructure systems and adaptations to climate change.

He is a commissioner on the National Infrastructure Commission and member of the Council for Science and Technology, both of which provide independent expert advice to the UK government. He also served on the Climate Change Committee’s adaptation sub-committee in 2009-19.

Jim led the development of the national infrastructure systems model that was used for the ICE’s influential national needs assessment and for the UK’s first national infrastructure assessment.

He invented the UK Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure, which he continues to serve as the chair of its governance board.

Among various distinctions, Jim was awarded the ICE’s George Stephenson Medal in 2001 and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water in 2018. He also contributed to the Nobel Prize-winning Fourth Assessment Report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Sarah Sharples

Sarah Sharples

Department for Transport

chief scientific adviser

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Sarah Sharples

Professor Sarah Sharples is chief scientific adviser for the Department for Transport. She is a professor of human factors in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham, where she was pro-vice-chancellor for equality, diversity and inclusion, and people in 2018-21. 

Sarah has led research projects focusing on transport, manufacturing and healthcare. Her particular interest is the design of systems that successfully integrate novel technologies and people in complex systems, in settings including railways, roads and aviation. She was president of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors in 2015-16.

Dr Annette Pass

Dr Annette Pass

National Highways

head of innovation

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Dr Annette Pass

Annette has over 20 years’ experience in transport infrastructure. She is currently Head of Innovation at National Highways, where she is a passionate advocate of change and improvement in construction, transport and innovation in government.