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Collaboration culture in engineering needs to change to unlock value from technology

07 February 2019

The ICE-Topcon Innovation Lecture looked at the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on the engineering profession.

Collaboration culture in engineering needs to change to unlock value from technology

The working culture in the built environment needs to change to fully benefit from new technology.

This was one of the main takeaways from the sixth annual ICE-Topcon Innovation Lecture, held on 6 February 2019 at One Great George Street.

The event explored themes from Breaking Barriers in Infrastructure, a research paper jointly published by ICE and Topcon in January, which studied ICE member perspectives around the engineering profession’s transition into the fourth industrial revolution.

Technology is a tool – not the sole answer

As summarised by guest speakers at the event, technology on its own is not the sole answer to our problems.

Technology is a tool, and to get the most from it, engineers need to challenge some of the profession’s most established ways of working. The industry needs to think differently, collaborate in new ways, and be more pragmatic about the ways it develops and retains engineering talent.

Simon Navin, Head of Innovation Programmes at Ordnance Survey, said that “the economic and societal benefit of collaboration will be realised at many levels. But we – the wider built environment industry – need to understand the need to do things differently".

“The culture of collaboration needs to change in order to unlock value from data and technology,” he said.

Leadership of course plays a crucial role in effecting change, but infrastructure professionals at all levels have a responsibility to make a difference.

Creating a culture of thoroughness and clarity

Dr Jennifer Schooling, Director of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, highlighted that “digitalising our industry is as much about culture and mindset as much as anything else”.

“It’s about creating a culture of thoroughness, consistency and attention to detail, and being clear on why we want to use technology in the first place,” Schooling said.

As the engineering profession strives to deliver better infrastructure services to society, we should be heartened by the opportunity posed by “Industry 4.0”.

According to Andy Evans, Product Manager for Mass Data Capture, Topcon Positioning Europe:

“The future is bright, but it relies on innovation to enable technology to make a difference, a positive attitude to make things work, and a commitment to encouraging and nurturing current and new members of our industry.”

A recording of the event will be posted on the ICE website later this month.

  • Ben McAlinden, manager (international partnerships) at Royal Academy of Engineering