Andrew Wyllie CBE, the Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) 154th president, wants to ensure that members take full advantage of new technologies in their bid to improve lives in the global society.
"I believe that the ICE must be at the very forefront of the smart infrastructure revolution," he said during his first Presidential Address at One Great George Street in London tonight.
The event marked the handover of the presidency from Professor Lord Robert Mair.
The CEO of construction and engineering group Costain talked about how he hosted a joint event at ICE’s London headquarters earlier this year with the national data science organisation Alan Turing Institute and Tech UK.
"Here in this building ... with world experts discussing how best to use technology to improve the performance of infrastructure," Wyllie said.
As this was an area in which Costain's customers are increasingly investing their money, he said, it was "no great surprise" that most major customers were represented at the event.
He added: “For me, it was also another perfect example of the ICE being the ‘go-to’ place to solve the world's major issues."
ICE as the authority on the global society’s issues
Wyllie highlighted the Global Engineering Congress (GEC) and ICE’s In Plain Sight report as other examples of ICE playing a crucial role in finding solutions to major global challenges, from population growth to climate change.
ICE hosted the first-ever GEC in London last month, bringing over 2,500 delegates from around the world to discuss how engineers can help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Meanwhile, In Plain Sight, which covers the subject of whole-life safety of infrastructure, was published following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.
“We’ve made great progress, just in the last 12 months, building that “go-to” reputation. I think we should have the confidence to really go and build on those achievements," he said.
Wyllie outlined five principles in total that make up the themes of his presidential year. He described them as "core" to ICE’s future success.
The importance of having a clear purpose
Echoing a key message from UNOPS at the GEC,
Wyllie believes that the infrastructure sector no longer works in a silo, and that ICE should reflect this through the principles.
He said that ICE and its members need to remember it has a clear purpose - to improve lives in the global society - and to constantly promote this purpose.
For example, he talked about how he’s personally proud of the work
"What we do as engineers is all about the benefit it brings to people out there," Wyllie said.
Costain did creating the high-speed rail terminus at London’s St Pancras, which was more than just a train station.
It’s a “facility that helps bring people together and connects us with Europe,” he said.
Members must deliver value for money
As well as knowing its purpose, ICE must help members deliver value for money for their customers,
"It’s essential that engineers deliver real value for money for customers," he said, saying that engineers need to be continually adding clear and affordable attributes to solutions for their customers.
"The good news is that the ICE is here to help you provide your customers with better value for money," he added.
Wyllie mentioned how ICE’s Project 13, which aims to help customers and suppliers generate greater value by promoting collaborative and more strategic contract relationships, is just the start.
"But there is so much more that we need to do," he said.
ICE also needs to remember its roots and focus on bringing in young people into the Institution, Wyllie said.
He reminded members of 22-year-old Henry Palmer and the group of under-35s who set up ICE 200 years ago.
"The ICE must attract, nurture and develop the brightest minds of the next generation," he said.
"I'm looking forward over the next 12 months to working with five Future Leaders [pictured below] at the ICE - a group of people who have got very clear ideas about how they would like to see the ICE continue to flourish."
ICE President and his Future Leaders, L-R: Emma Watkins, Eric Shutwai Leung, Bryn Noble, Andrew Wyllie, Alex Blackhouse and Monika Szczyrba.
Wyllie was keen to highlight the importance of diversity in engineering.
He talked about how more than half of Costain’s graduate intake this year was female, and how the company received the Times’ Top 50 Employers for Women award for the first time.
This focus on equality becomes a business critical issue when, as Wyllie explained, customers consider a contractor’s diversity performance in their tender review processes.
"The 5% that Network Rail [one of our major customers] attributes to EDI [equality, diversity and inclusion] performance can mean the difference for us between winning and losing engineering work," he said.
ICE People's Choice Award
Wyllie finished his inaugural President’s Address by announcing the winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award, which included international projects for the first time, to mark ICE’s 200th anniversary.
Thousands of members of the public voted for the Kaikoura earthquake recovery project from New Zealand, for the work on restoring road and rail infrastructure in the region after the major disaster in November 2016.