Professor Lord Robert Mair's speech, which he gave yesterday evening to an audience of members and industry figures at One Great George Street, marks the handover of the presidency from Professor Tim Broyd.
The new ICE President's theme for the year addresses how civil engineering has changed radically over 200 years and outlines how civil engineers today are as innovative and dedicated to solving problems now as ever they were. Tackling challenges such as climate change, population growth and rapid urbanisation is how civil engineers transform millions of people's lives for the better.
In his speech he looks at how the profession can use technology to improve infrastructure assets, transforming the industry and the societies it serves. He also sets out the opportunity for civil engineers of today to solve current global challenges and encourage the next generation to become engineers.
He explains that civil engineers have often been 'invisible superheroes' as they tackle real problems which impact people, across the world, daily. No other career has such a positive yet unseen benefit for society and the 200th anniversary of ICE is an opportunity to showcase the vibrant, rewarding and valuable career of being a civil engineer – just as Sir Joseph Bazalgette and Thomas Telford saw two centuries ago.
"Throughout my career I have seen first-hand how engineers can transform lives and I am excited at the prospect of a whole new era of smart technology," Professor Lord Mair says. "I plan to use my presidency to help make the profession of civil engineering fit for a digital future and ready for the potential changes to the way infrastructure is delivered.
"I see a great and vibrant future for our profession – for infrastructure and for the lives of every person on this planet regardless of who they are or where they were born. The challenge now is to encourage young people from all backgrounds to join us in this profession, one which has the power and the responsibility to literally change the world for the better."
Robert Mair was appointed Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Cambridge University in 1998. He was the Sir Kirby Laing Professor of Civil Engineering 2011-17, and Master of Jesus College 2001-11. He was a Fellow of St John's College 1998-2001. He is also one of the founding directors of the Geotechnical Consulting Group (GCG), an international consulting company based in London, started in 1983. He was appointed Chief Engineering Adviser to the Laing O'Rourke Group in 2011.
Professor Lord Mair also introduced his eight Future Leaders. The ICE President's Future Leaders Scheme, formerly the President's Apprentice Scheme, is open to all technicians and ICE graduate members working towards their professional qualification. Since the first intake in 2005 the scheme has offered a unique opportunity to gain experience, develop skills, learn about the industry and be mentored by the ICE President.
The eight successful Future Leaders will attend ICE events, meet senior industry people and join Lord Mair on regional visits.