ICE President Sir John Armitt talks innovation at his inaugural speech

He called on industry to innovate and inspire as he gave his ‘Civil Engineers: Shaping ourselves and our world’ speech at ICE’s Headquarters at One Great George Street as he became the 151st President of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Sir John Armitt, ICE
Sir John Armitt, ICE's 151st president
Watch the highlights of Sir John's speech

Sir John opened his speech by telling the assembled audience, which included a host of industry leaders and politicians, what had inspired him to take up a career in civil engineering.

Looking forward, he posed the question of how best our profession, and ICE itself can fulfil its role in society and remain relevant to our members

He said he would like to see the Institution fulfil its role as the home of infrastructure to showcase the great civil engineers and ground-breaking structures that have shaped the world, and he pointed to the exchange of knowledge as a fundamental opportunity to members as it was when the Institution was founded in 1818,

“The Institution must be relevant. The Institution must be valued by its members and by society. But that value will be perceived differently according to different communities’ demands and expectations.

The exchange of technical knowledge and problem solving is the very stuff of engineering.

The opportunity to share and learn from one another is a fundamental opportunity for members of the Institution. The application of knowledge to different problems in different ways, innovating on the last solution, is the bread and butter of an engineer’s working day.

We can have a limited exchange with colleagues at work, or instead seek a wider exchange with fellow ICE members across the world in seconds using the Internet. This will only become quicker and easier.” he said

Sir John also welcomed Government’s adoption of a National Infrastructure Commission, which he recommended in his 2013 Infrastructure Review, and said he was delighted to be appointed as a Commissioner.

“The public pay for infrastructure - either as taxpayers, shareholders or customers of utilities – they are the end users of it, and are impacted by its construction. As a result, politicians are ultimately held to account by the voter and are bound to interfere for good and bad. We cannot change this.

But we need a mechanism which provides dispassionate analysis of our long-term infrastructure needs and acts as a catalyst for reaching consensus on those needs. The effects of achieving consensus cannot be overstated – it could enable the kind of infrastructure revolution not seen since our great forebears in the 19th Century. I am pleased to see cross party support for a Commission, and to be part of something I have advocated and believe in.” he said.

He added that engineers, working with other professions, have a responsibility to help decision makers answer the ‘how, ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions, and ensure the Commission’s choices are based on independent, expert evidence.

Watch Sir John Armitt's full Presidential Address

Download Sir John's inaugural address