Sunday, December 13, 2009

RTE "This Week" radio programme

A short interview with Paraic White,  former head of the IDA,  and myself was broadcast at lunch time on the RTE Radio 1 "This Week" programme,  giving our reaction to the recent budget.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Accreditation Parchments Presentation

Yesterday morning,  I attended the ceremony at Clyde Rd for the presentation of accreditation parchments to a number of Institutes of Technology and Universities,  in respect of various of their courses which have been accredited during the year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Institution of Civil Engineers, NI Region Annual Dinner

This evening,  I had the great pleasure of attending the annual dinner of the ICE NI Region,  at the Europa Hotel in Belfast.

Irish Taxation Institute: Budget Breakfast Briefing

This morning,  I joined a panel discussion hosted by the Irish Taxation Institute (ITI) on the morning after the national budget.  The discussion was moderated by Bryan Dobson of RTE,  and included Liam Grimes (KPMG), Danny McCoy (IBEC), Olivia Lynch (ITI) and Colm McCarthy (UCD),  as well as myself representing Engineers Ireland.   About 270 people attended.

F1 in Schools World Championships: Winners Celebration

Yesterday evening in the Science Gallery,  I had the pleasure of meeting and giving an award on behalf of Engineer Ireland to the world championship winners of the F1 in Schools Championships,  St David's secondary school in Greystones.   Thirty one teams from 20 countries participated in the world finals in London,  at which the racing driver Lewis Hamilton presented the Greystones team with their prize.

Friday, December 4, 2009

New Members Evening

We hosted an information event and informal reception yesterday evening at Clyde Road,  for new members.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Heads of Schools Meeting

Today from 10am to 3pm,  John Power (DG),  Denis McGrath (Registrar) and myself hosted a meeting to which all heads of engineering schools nationwide,  both from Universities and Institutes of Technology,  were invited to discuss deeper co-ordination and co-operation between us all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Executive and Council meetings

Yesterday morning we had a short,  one hour,  Executive meeting followed immediately by Council.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finance Committee Meeting

We had an additional finance committee meeting at lunch-time,  to finalise a difficult budget for 2010.   There are a few "known unknowns" relating to income next year,  so we will need to remain flexible in our prudent management of the financial resources during 2010,  whilst striving at all times to further improve our key benefits of membership with what will almost certainly be less overall income.

The budget will be presented to Executive tomorrow morning and,  if approved,  given to Council later on in the morning.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

North-East Region Annual Dinner Dance

I attended the north-east region's event this evening in the Crystal Hotel,  Cavan.  John Brannigan was the hosting President,  and the Chair of Cavan County Council,  Winston Bennett,  and County Manager,  Jack Keyes also attended.   There were about 90 people altogether.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Software Industry Awards 2009

This evening I represented Engineers Ireland at the Software Industry Awards in the Burlington Hotel in Dublin.   About 400 people attended,  with Des Cahill as an excellent host for the evening.   Minister Conor Lenihan was the guest of honour,  and spoke passionately about the opportunity for the software industry and the smart economy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finance Committee Meeting; Executive Committee Meeting

This afternoon at Clyde Road we had our November Finance Committee meeting,  followed immediately by a meeting of the Cafe Clyde Committee,  and then by the Executive.

Chartered Engineer of the Year Award; Paper and Presentation Awards

Yesterday evening at Clyde Road we had standing room only - about 200 people in all - for the finalists of the C.Eng. of the Year award,  and for the awards for best papers.    This was the 13th year of the C.Eng of the Year competition.  Last year (June '08-'09),  450 people achieved C.Eng. status,  and the six of these became finalists last evening.

Friday, November 6, 2009

JobSeekers Network

I briefly sat in for part of this morning's JobSeekers Network meeting in Dublin,  organised by Sean Maguire and Jimmy Kinahan,  and chatted to people at a few of the tables.   Unfortunately I then had another meeting at 10am to get to for the innovation taskforce.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Officers Meeting

This evening,  John Power (DG),  Jim Browne (Past President),  PJ Rudden (Junior VP) and myself met in Clyde Road,  followed by dinner together,  to have a general review across a range of topics.  Martin Lowery (Senior VP) had hoped to be able to join us in time from a meeting of the Urban Forum in Limerick,  which he chairs on behalf of Engineers Ireland,  but became caught in traffic.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our IT systems

Joined a meeting at Clyde Road this afternoon chaired by Damien Owens,  with John Power,  John Byrne and Richard Seaver,  to review the current architecture of IT systems,  in the light of our investments over the summer,  and to consider how these might be further developed in a cost effective and resilient manner for the future.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Regulation and Licensing of Professional Engineers

One of my stated personal objectives for my Presidency this year was to advance the regulation and licensing of Professional Engineers in Ireland.   I reflected on this issue,  as affects Software Engineering,  in my presidential address.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mutual Recognition Agreement with Engineers Australia

Earlier this afternoon,  we had a short ceremony in Clyde Rd to sign a mutual recognition agreement with Engineers Australia (EA),  thus enabling Chartered Engineers from Engineers Ireland to practice in Australia,  and vice versa.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fellowship for Deputy Prime Minister Hai, of Vietnam

At lunch today,  I had the honour of awarding Fellowship by Presidential Invitation to the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam,  Houng Trung Hai.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Graduate Careers Fair, RDS

The gradireland graduate careers fair is on today at the RDS in Dublin.  Engineers Ireland has a stand,  manned by Alec McAllister from the Clyde Road team.   I gave a one hour invited seminar.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Executive and Finance committee meeting

We had our regularly scheduled Executive meeting this evening at Clyde Road,  preceded by a Finance subcommittee meeting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Young Engineers Society Annual Ball

The Young Engineers Society Ball was held last night at the Hilton Hotel in Dublin,  kindly sponsored by ESBI and AIB.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beyond the Recession: what can science and innovation partnerships do for you ?

This evening,  I represented Engineers Ireland at the Foundation for Science and Technology discussion on "Beyond the Recession:  what can science and innovation partnerships do for you?",  at Queens University in Belfast,  by kind invitation of Gerry Cawley of our Northern Ireland Region and Council member.

CPD Companies of the Year

This morning in the D4 Ballsbridge hotel (the old Berkeley Court) we held the finals of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) companies of the year and a CPD symposium.  The overall theme was "Low-cost,  high-impact CPD to strategically adapt and innovate".

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

IEEE and Engineers Ireland National Society Agreement

I attended the official ceremony in London today,  along with John Power and Catherine O'Sullivan (head of our UK region and Council member),  of a co-operation agreement with the IEEE.   The co-signatory with me was John Vig,  President of the IEEE.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Army Corp of Engineers annual dinner

At the kind invitation of the Army Engineering Corps,  I attended their annual dinner at Cathal Brugha Barracks this evening.   Also in attendance were Major-General Ashe,  Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham,  and Director of Engineering Colonel Jim Foley.

Irish Property & Facility Management Association Conference "Seeing Through the MUD"

At the kind invitation of the Irish Property and Facility Management Association (IPFMA),  I attended their conference in Croke Park this morning,  with the intriguing title of "Seeing Through the MUD".

The MUD in question is the Multi-Unit Development bill 2009,  currently before the Oireachtas.  The Law Reform Commission made recommendations on the regulation and legislation pertaining to the Property Services industry,  and in particular to the role of management operating companies for apartment complexes.   The IPFMA have been extensively engaged throughout the process,  and the main purpose of today's conference is to consider a number of issues with the current draft legislation,  with a view to making a further submission to the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform;  and of the Environment.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quality of Life Exhibition, Design Thinking in Sweden and Ireland

At the invitation of DIT and the Swedish Embassy this evening I attended the opening of the Quality of Life exhibition at DIT Bolton Street,  together with a seminar on Design Thinking in Ireland and Sweden.

Irish Academy of Engineering

John Power and I had a co-ordination meeting with the Academy of Engineering this morning at Clyde Road.   Michael Hayden,  the Academy President,  and Michael Higgins,  the Academy Secretary attended.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1969 Provisional Council 40th reunion lunch

I hosted a lunch today at 22 Clyde Rd for the members of the 1969 Provisional Council - Finbar Callanan, Ron Cox, Thomas Desmond, Donal Downes, Jim Dooge, Martin Hally, Bryan Hardwick, Patrick Hennigan, Jimmy Martin, Kevin Madden, Colm McLoughlin, Risteard O'Colmain, Vincent O'Doherty, Hugh Pollock, Brian Tansey and James Walsh.   Martin Lowery,  PJ Rudden,  and John Power attended with me to represent Engineers Ireland.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September Council meeting

On Saturday morning last we had our September Council meeting.

Council is now using basecamp to help organise our meetings,  including posting of documents and papers in advance of the meetings.   I encourage you to consider using basecamp for the organisation of any meetings with which you many be involved for our organisation.

Brian Kavanagh,  as head of the Finance Committee,  reported that finances remain extremely tight,  but we are currently still on course to break even for the full year.  Our main source of income is our subscriptions from members.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Presidential Address

I gave my first address as President yesterday evening, at Clyde Road and via Webex. I'll be giving a small number of invited repeat performances throughout the remainder of the year.

My main theme was the technical challenges in certifying software design and development as safe - safe from harming humans or damaging property.

Regulation of Engineering in Ireland is a key issue for Engineers Ireland. Currently, the profession is weakly regulated as compared to certain other jurisdictions. Elsewhere, all engineering works which may impact the health and safety of the public, or may give rise to material harm to property, must by law be duly certified by a professional Engineer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finance Committee Meeting; Executive Committee Meeting

Hope you had a great August!

We had a Finance Committee meeting, followed by Executive, at Clyde Road this afternoon.

Our finances remain tight, although we remain on target for a small profit for the year. Our main focus remains on our subscription revenues, both for existing members and new members. These are reasonably where we expect them to be at this time of year, are we are hoping for an uplift of new members joining in the light of our recent changes to our membership criteria for MIEI.

We had a first consideration of the annual budget for 2010, including member subscription rates for 2010. Executive's recommendations on subscription rates will be brought to our imminent Council meeting on 26th next.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Presidential Address

I'm planning my presidential address, which I will give a number of times during my year as President, with the first one being in Clyde Road in September.

I'm planning to discuss why it is so challenging to engineer software safely, and hope the talk can be of interest to non-software engineers, and specialists, alike.

I met with Prof. Mike Hinchey this afternoon for a coffee, to get a briefing from him on some of the latest trends in safety critical software.

Mike has extensive experience at NASA, and is currently working in the University of Limerick Lero software engineering research entre. He is commercially developing technology to exploit US patents he holds in the area, as Silicon Republic recently reported.

Mike walked me through some the case work with the planned automated repair of the Hubble telescope, and how that has helped define the technology with which he is now working.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leadership 4 Growth: Construction Industry

I had a coffee today with Liam O'Donohue, of Enterprise Ireland, and responsible for the Leadership 4 Growth programme for the construction industry.

Liam was previously involved in the earlier variant of this programme for the software and bio-medical sectors, and I was one of the business mentors on this programme.

The construction industry programme is reaching the end of its year with a cohort 29 Irish CEOs from civil engineering, architecture and consultancy firms, and has been run in conjunction with Duke University in North Carolina.

Liam briefed me on the operation of the programme of the last twelve months, and some of the feedback from the participants, all of whom aspire to develop their international markets. The tension between short term sheer survival in the industry, and more medium term trends towards energy management in the industry, creates both interesting opportunities and challenges.

I understand that Enterprise Ireland intend to run a second tranche of the programme, starting next spring, with a further set of about 30 Irish CEOs.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carlow IT & WISE; CPD, and Waste Management

Had an informal lunch today at the science gallery with PJ Rudden of the RPS Group, and who will be our President in 2011-2012. PJ, as a current Vice President, has now taken over the chairmanship of our Continuing Professional Development (CPD) committee at Clyde Rd from me, and so I was briefing him on my experiences and thoughts about the CPD work and the committee over the last year.

In addition, PJ took the opportunity to brief me on some interesting developments in the Waste Management area and I look forward to Engineers Ireland making a further contributions to national policy in this area.

I then drove to Carlow, to officially open and launch the "Wales Ireland Sustainable Enterprise" (WISE) project, a co-operation between Carlow Institute of Technology and the Welsh division of the UK Engineering Construction Industry Training Board. This is a 3 year project during which 20 Irish SME engineering companies (in the south east) and 20 Welsh SME engineering companies (in Pembrokeshire) will be selected, and then each receive a free in depth business analysis followed by 10 days free mentoring and coaching as appropriate to their businesses - for example on innovation, marketing, financial management, human resources, design issues, diversification, energy efficiency etc. The project will also look for opportunities and synergies for the combined portfolio of companies to partner together on a bilateral basis. The project is sponsored by the EU Interreg programme.

As a footnote, Carlow Institute of Technology is the first and currently only third level education institution in the country to be an accredited organisation of our CPD programme.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2010 Conference, and debate series

I met with John Power (DG) and Fionnuala Kilbane (marketing & comms. director) this morning at Clyde Rd., to review the plans to date for next years conference, and a new debate series.

Our conference will be hosted by the Cork Region on 22nd April and 23rd April next, and will celebrate out 175th anniversary. In discussions with the Cork Region, and in particular with its Chair Kevin Murray, we are planning to extend the conference to a full two days, including in particular a new session on the afternoon of the friday. This new plenary session will consider a number of specific resolutions, which will be proposed by the Regions, Divisions and Societies this autumn. Six of these will then be debated at Conference in the new afternoon session, with a proposing delegation (from a Region, Society or Division as appropriate).

There also a number of social activities around the conference being planned by the Cork Region.

In discussions this morning, we also examined the conference fees for 2010, and hope to be soon able to announce a modest reduction in conference fees, despite the longer conference (of two full days, rather than a day and a half).

In addition to the Conference, we are also planning a series of evening debates throughout the autumn, winter and spring, culminating in the Conference itself. Topics for debate could include national water policy; national energy strategy; the future of the construction industry; innovation; job creation, and regulation of the profession. The exact topics will be chosen in consultation with the Regions, Divisions and Societies in early autumn.

I believe that the new plenary session at Conference, and the debate series, should both provide an excellent way to further engage the Regions, Divisions and Societies; as well as provide further visibility of Engineers Ireland with the public at large.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chinese Academy of Engineering

We had a visit from the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) this morning at Clyde Road, led by their Vice President, Prof. Pan Yunhe who in turn was a software academic and prior head of Zhejiang University. From our side, we had Jack Golden, representing the Irish Academy of Engineering and its Vice-President; John Power, Director General; Damien Owens, from the ICT Division, and myself.

The CAE was formed in 1994 in Beijing as an independent, not-for-profit organisation to represent Engineering perspectives to the Chinese Government. It is limited to 1,000 elected & nominated members: it currently has 711 domestic members, and 32 foreign honorary members (no Irish at this time). It has a secretariat of 70. Its general assembly meets every 2 years. It has a Governing Board, 9 Divisions and 7 Committees. The Divisions and Committees are somewhat similar to our own in focus, but unlike us it does have a Division on Agriculture (ie Engineering in Agriculture), and on Medical Systems.

It conducts strategic studies which influence national Chinese technology policy and to vet and review major engineering projects. Recent major national studies include water infrastructure; renewable energy; population trends and the consequences for urbanisation; environmental protection; and disaster management (in the light of the Wuchen earthquake and separately the Guangdong snows, both in 2008).

It has 20 international co-operation agreements with Engineering Academies worldwide. Mr Cheng, deputy DG of international co-operation, noted a particularly longstanding and mutually fruitful co-operation with the Swedish Academy which has included joint study groups on renewable energy, and environmental protection. There have been student exchanges, and bilateral secondment of student engineers into industry positions for work experience. In oher cases - the UK and USA - there have been Young Engineer seminars on a bilateral basis.

We expressed a strong desire to put a formal agreement in place between Ireland and China which could support such activities, but noted that in the current national fiscal environment it may be very difficult to finding Government funding pro rata equivalent to the support of the Chinese government to the CAE. Jack Golden, as VP of the IAE, will be leading a delegation to Beijing next year.

Friday, July 10, 2009

IT Project Steering Meeting

Had lunch time meeting for the Steering Group, with representatives from our vendors and consultants Version 1 and IQ Content.

We're still looking good for the launch of the new website and new internal backend systems, for 20th July next. We'll make a final go/no-go decision in the middle of next week.

Migration of our old data and records into the new systems is a very substantial task, but we believe that it is progressing well enough that the 20th July launch should still be viable.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finance Committee Meeting; Executive Committee Meeting

We had a scheduled meeting of the Finance Committee, and then the Executive Committee this afternoon.

As I noted at our previous Finance meeting, our finances in general remain tight for the remainder of the year. I am pleased to see the entire Clyde Road team focussed on the issue, and although much of our resourcing is currently being invested in completing the internal IT systems project, including in particular data cleansing of our records, nevertheless the team are very committed to bringing in the financial year on a break even or even better.

Our Executive Committee had a long agenda but we managed to get through it reasonably efficiently. In addition to our usual reports, we spent some time:
  • summarising the general intentions for next year's annual conference;
  • reviewing the process we used to select a supplier for the Engineers Ireland journal for the next 3 year contract, and empowering the DG to negotiate an appropriate contract, especially in the light of pressures on advertising revenues;
  • adopting the general revisions to the text defining our Membership criteria in the light of the opening of membership to level 7 graduates, and to cognate degrees, and the implications of the 2013 changes to the requirements for C.Eng;
  • a progress report on our support for unemployed engineers, and an imminent meeting of our UK region in that regard;
  • an update on the improvements to our internal management systems, which imminently go live;
  • and a note from Jim Robinson, of our Cork region, on a recent meeting of the RIA reviewing the interest and education levels of 3rd level science students, which we will bring to the attention of our Membership Qualification Board and Accreditation Board.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Engineering in Context Symposium

I spoke this afternoon at this symposium, on the topic of "Engineering Engineers". I reproduce my text below.

I set the speech in the context of the "Shift Happens" videos, and you'll see some text in italics from those slidesets. Also, the content of some of the talk has come from some of my earlier presentations.

There were many non professional engineers in the audience, and amongst the other speakers. So, my contents were (deliberately :-) controversial and stimulated debate....

"The ancient Masters didn't try to educate the people, but patiently taught them to not-know. When they think they know the answers, people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don't know, people can then find their way"--- from Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" - the Book of the Way.

Teaching is about not-knowing. Educating is about fostering self-awareness. Learning is about finding.

Being an educator is the most privileged profession. In knowing herself, an educator imprints on the next generation a way to understand themselves and thus to find their way.

Today, the most well known, most recognised internationally, most loved engineer in the public eye must surely be....Homer Simpson. It is clear that in many western societies, including Ireland, that the engineering professional has lost control of the title "engineer". Instead, in my view, we should focus on the title "professional engineer".

There are 31 billion searches every month on Google: to whom where these questions asked before Google ?

I went to (high) school here in Dublin, finishing in 1974. I was so fortunate to have many fine teachers. And I believe in every case, all those years ago, I viewed each of these teachers as a prime source of information and knowledge. They knew, and I didn't.

Today, I think many of us accept that the situation has irrevocably changed. Teachers are of course still fine people, but many students no longer accept their teachers as the prime source of information and knowledge. The internet, and in particular Google, is now the primary way to find out and learn. Wikipedia - an online encyclopedia - is a chief reference and authority. Twitter - an online headline broadcast service - is a rapid access to what's happening. Facebook and Bebo - online social communities - are a quick way to find and share what's cool. Youtube - an online video clip service - is a quick way to humour. iTunes - an online music and "podcasting" service - is a quick way to music and interesting interviews.

Ten years ago, I used to worry about the 'digital divide' -- that the wealthy had access to the internet, and those of limited means did not. I remember the Ennis Information Age project here in Ireland in which we asked ourselves what would happen if an entire community was trained on how to use a PC and had access to the internet. Over the last decade I believe that, in Ireland at least, there is considerably greater uptake and affordable access to the internet. There are of course still digitally impoverished communities in Ireland, but the situation is improving. The convergence of mobile phone technology with broadband internet access, is a further catalyst.

Matthew Wisnioski noted in his speed that technology and society move at different rates, and mentioned Simon Ramo's work. Now I worry, maybe unnecessarily, about the separate rate of adoption of technology within and across the society, for example the digital divide of the generations. Most of us know how to book an airline seat online. Most of us know how to send an email, or access our bank account. But how many of us know how to upload a video to Youtube, or to make a podcast, or how to contribute to the wisdom of the crowd ? Meanwhile, for the younger generation there is no divide between virtual reality and the real world: for them this would be an unnecessary and unnatural distinction, and for them the internet is an intrinsic part of the real world as much as the telephone, the radio or even the weather.

Therefore today, what role should a teacher and educator now play ? It's now clear to many students that their teachers don't know as much about their chosen subject as Google or Wolfram-Alpha or Bing do. Louis Bucciarelli in his talk this morning noted that "we teach students the correct equations to plug into" - but I content that now perhaps Wolfram-Alpha does this for them. It's also clear to many students that traditional classroom teaching isn't particularly interesting or stimulating. Instead, on the internet, you can quickly browse from headline to headline, quickly learn, quickly find out what's happening, quickly participate and quickly share with your friends and community. It's not that today's students have attention deficit, and are incapable of absorption or focus: on the contrary, they immerse themselves deeply - for hours sometimes - in what they find interesting, such as specific games and challenges. The difference today is that students have found a way - the internet - to so much more easily quickly find out what is really interesting for them, and to rapidly filter out and discard what they find mundane.

The amount of unique information created this year (about 4 x 10^19 bytes) exceeds the total amount of information created over the last 5,000 years - including last year.

Our young people should be able to reason, to deduce and derive, to correlate and spot patterns, to explore and to be inquisitive, and to be articulate and confident. In my humble view, these are more life centric skills than learning facts and perspectives by rote: knowing something off by heart, but not understanding why, why not, and so what. Skills taught in schools should be for life. There are many things which can be learnt during adulthood, but some skills which are difficult to learn without a solid foundation during the teens and 20s.

In my view, and I admit as an elderly grey traditionalist, mathematics is a critical catalyst to careful reasoning and deduction. Mathematics is too vast to be learnt by rote and instead requires insightful thinking and intellectual clarity. Taught well, it enables core intellectual skills for life. It also makes learning easier, not just for mathematics, but many other subjects, since understanding comes from reasoning, rather than learning by rote.

The decline in the Irish attainment of mathematics and core sciences has been gradual. It has perhaps gone unnoticed by many, but major employers across a range of business sectors of strategic importance to Ireland are seriously concerned to see substantial decreases in the number of our students taking technology courses, and in particular the fall off in those taking mathematics. If we all aspire to build a future for our young people as outlined above, then competence in mathematics is a cornerstone. Competence in mathematics underpins not just engineering and the physical sciences, but also sectors such as alternative energy and green systems, financial services, medical research, and cross disciplinary areas such as bio-engineering. For so many areas of our potential national prosperity and quality of society, competence in mathematics is critical.

With further government budget cuts imminent, there is a very serious risk that teaching in mathematics and the core sciences will dramatically suffer further. This is especially so at secondary school (high school, in Ireland) level, since these subjects are perceived as resource intensive and difficult to teach. The Principals of eleven secondary schools of one Irish county have recently jointly written an open letter to all the parents of all their students stating that in view of Government cutbacks, they may no longer be in a position to teach honours mathematics and sciences at all in their schools. Incredibly, almost 20% of the secondary schools in Ireland no longer offer honours mathematics to their students. In 2007, only 14% of Irish university applicants to honours degrees had achieved honours mathematics capability in school.

Teachers should be encouraged to foster reasoning, deduction, derivation, correlation, exploration and curiosity, intellectual clarity and insight, fluency and confidence. Mathematics and the core sciences are clear catalysts. Teachers who achieve consistent success in their students in these subjects should not only be acclaimed but also receive fiscal reward - if this cannot be done through Government pay, it may be possible to do via industry sponsored competitions. Teachers whose own core skills are weak should be offered re-skilling and professional development. Considerably more use should be made of the web - including podcasts and vidcasts to complement the music on students' personal players - to cultivate dynamic, current, interesting course material: social free educational networking can compensate to some extent weaknesses in any specific teacher in a particular school.

Our country needs to get back to basics: core skills taught well, rather than nebulous "up skills". Mathematics and the core sciences are one critical foundation.

The former US Secretary of Education Richard Riley has claimed that the top ten in-demand job categories next year in 2010 didn't exist in 2004. We're preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist using technologies that haven't been invented in order to solve problems that we don't even know are problems yet.

In my own career with computers and software, my industry not only changes its technologies, but also rapidly changes its perspective as new applications appear. A professional engineer today, regardless of his or her background, must have a multi-disciplinary philosophy. That has two complementary aspects: the intra-engineering and external. Multi-discipline, in the intra-engineering sense, implies an understanding and training across multiple engineering specializations, understanding the application of mathematical and scientific results to civil, mechanical, electrical, electronic, software, manufacturing engineering, and so on. By the external multi-disciplinary aspect, I mean the ability to discuss articulately with line of business managers, product marketing, corporate marketing, corporate lawyers, human resource professionals, and of course financial analysts.

But today, forgive me, in this country, I wonder have our colleagues in our engineering academies – both universities and institutes of technology – lost the plot ? One of their concerns I guess – and I speak as a past university lecturer – is the usually desperate quest to achieve recognition by their peer academics in other departments across the rest of the organisation. As an engineering department struggles to achieve recognition, and of course financial resources, amongst perhaps stronger groups in the pure sciences, the medics, the department of law, the business studies department, all of the various departments of humanities and so on, there is a natural tendency to play the game: “publish or perish”. And in publishing, and researching, more and more esoteric niched topics are addressed, in which one may have a reasonable chance of obtaining international recognition as an accomplished researcher but in what may be a very narrow field indeed.

However a consequence of this may be a tendency to over-specialise undergraduate courses. In a national market in Ireland, where there are few enough Leaving Certificate students obtaining honours standards in mathematics – which of course is the usual standard for entrance into courses leading to professional engineering accreditation – does it really make sense to have proliferation of undergraduate courses ? Let me give you some idea, from the list of undergraduate courses nationwide which are accredited by Engineers Ireland as giving a foundation to become a Member of our organization: Chemical and Process Engineering; Electronic Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Microelectronic Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Materials Engineering; Process Engineering; Process and Chemical Engineering; Structural Engineering; Civil Engineering; Environmental Engineering; Civil, Structural and Environment Engineering; Manufacturing Engineering; Production Engineering; Computer-Aided and Manufacturing Engineering; Industrial Engineering and Information Systems; Aeronautical Engineering; Digital Media Engineering; Information and Communication Engineering; Manufacturing Engineering with Business Studies; Mechatronic Engineering; Medical Mechanical Engineering; Biosystems Engineering; Computer Engineering; Building Services Engineering; Agricultural and Food Engineering. I know that all the academics involved in offering this wonderful diversity are sincere in their disciplines, but isn’t it time we stood back and asked ourselves is there a better way to help students select Engineering as a profession ? And ensure that they have a very solid, multi-disciplinary approach to Engineering as a profession ? And leave at least some of the specialization, when and as necessary, to their continued professional development during their career ?

Before 1990, there was no such thing as surfing the web. Before 2000, a phone was something attached to a cable in your house. The first commercial text message was sent in December 1992: now the total number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet. It took radio 38 years to get to a market audience of 50 million; TV 13 years; internet 4 years; iPod 3 years; Facebook 2 years.

Yesterday at this symposium, Bill Grimson stated that "life does not change that rapidly" - my contention is in fact the opposite. Today, email is dying as a tool for many of the younger generation: is is prone to spam, is poor for collaboration and sharing of documents and works, and is not a good tool for building conversations and discourse. Twitter and Facebook provide a better basis, along with shared documents such as Google documents, Flickr and Slideshare.

In the face of such rapid technology change, how should we improve the preparation of young engineers to manage their careers ?

If one of my family ever were to pursue a career in surgery, I and they would expect to learn from practicing surgeons. If I were ever to take lessons to become an aircraft pilot, I would like lessons from a qualified professional pilot. In my business career, whenever requiring professional legal or financial advice, I have sought the necessary qualified professional individuals.

In each of these professions, mentoring by an established and accredited professional is critical. Young surgeons are coached by established consultants. Young pilots are watched over by experienced captains who monitor the flight. Senior lawyers instruct their juniors.

In each of these professions, regular training throughout a career is critical. Surgeons are trained in new operations. Pilots are regularly re-certified on the aircraft they wish to fly. Lawyers are required to track the evolution of laws and case histories.

And so, surely we would expect our young aspiring engineers to be taught by professionals. Professional Engineers. And surely we would expect, no require, that our young engineers would be mentored and coached by established professional engineers. And surely we would expect, no require, that professional engineers remain current with changes in engineering practice.

Professional engineers engage with many people outside of their profession: HR professionals, senior executives, financiers, public relations, business development, regulators, the media, policy makers and politicians. To my knowledge, few academics do so.

In preparing today’s talk, I browsed the web sites of the Irish universities and institutes offering those courses I alluded to above, and examined the credentials of the academics of the various engineering departments concerned – at least, as published on their web sites. It was very very interesting, and I encourage you to try the exercise yourself.

For example: one department: six full time academic staff, only one of them – the head of Department – listed C.Eng. as amongst his accomplishments. Another: four academics, no C.Eng listed. Another: twenty academics, one Fellow, four C.Engs. And so on.

Now there are many PhDs. And a few Professors. But why so few Chartered Engineers (or Fellows) ? I suspect that perhaps the various web pages aren’t always accurate, and C.Eng qualifications aren’t always listed. However, that in turn is indicative: why would an Engineering academic not be much more proud of the fact that he or she was a Chartered Engineer, or Fellow, and advertise that fact, ahead of being a Dr. or Professor ??...

In the medical profession, a simple Mr, Ms or Mrs as a title commands great respect: the individual in question is likely to be a highly qualified surgeon or consultant, rather than a simple General Practitioner Doctor, or an esoteric academic Professor. A highly qualified practitioner gains respect. Why are our own Engineering academics not as proud of practical professional experiences ? Why is it acceptable to have a majority of non Chartered Engineer teaching professional engineering ? Should it be acceptable ? Why do engineering departments not insist on a C.Eng. recruitment policy for most of their staff, and why do they not demand that the majority of their younger staff achieve C.Eng. status as rapidly as possible, if necessary ahead of achieving professorial status ? Why do our engineering students not question – no, demand – that the majority of their teaching comes from professional engineers ?

Why are our junior engineers, at the start of their professional careers, not required to have a professional engineer as a mentor and coach - or rather, why is it that our professional engineers are not required by nature of their status and title, to coach and mentor at least one junior ? Anders Buchs this morning observed the anxiety that a student may have on "who is capable of judging my work?". Thus in fact, a mentor may provide more value and be more important than any academic with whom a young engineer encounters at university. Professional engineers routinely engage with people outside the profession of engineering: many academics do not need to do so. Professional engineers frequently track changes in practice in technology and regulation in their areas f expertise: many academics do not need to do so.

Perhaps the tenure system which operates in most western universities is detrimental to the teaching of engineering. If the majority of engineering academics had to continue to practice in order to maintain their status as professional engineers, perhaps the teaching of engineering would improve. Rotation between academia and practice, and continued professional development of professional engineering academics both may be enhancements to the teaching of engineering.

"The ancient Masters didn't try to educate the people, but patiently taught them to not-know. When they think they know the answers, people are difficult to guide. When they know that they don't know, people can then find their way"--- from Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" - the Book of the Way.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

2010 Annual Conference, DIT Symposium, and Veolia Transport

Met over a working lunch today to debrief with John Jordan and Sean Keohane, both of the Midlands Region, on our recent annual conference in Tullamore - what worked, what didn't work, if we could do it again what would we do better, etc.

Also with us were Kevin Murray and Jim Robertson, from the Cork region and next year's hosts, together with John Power and Fionnuala Kilbane. We put a lot of ideas on to the table on how next year's conference can be even better - how should we engage the sectors, divisions and societies in the conference ? How should we engage more proactively with the national media ? Did our sponsors get sufficient value and how can we increase this ? Does the format of the conference work, could it be improved ? How about the duration ? How can we encourage greater participation ? What can we do for student members, and currently un-employed members ?

We're distilling many ideas at the moment, and will solidify these in the coming weeks - feel free to post a comment here if you've any specific suggestions.

I then spent the afternoon sitting in on the Engineering in Context conference, at Clyde Road, and hosted by DIT. I am speaking at the conference tomorrow afternoon. The conference is promoting a book of the same name, which arose from a European-American research project launched in Colorado in April 2008, and exploring the various contexts (societal, environmental, fiscal, regulatory...) in which engineering takes place.

It was interesting and stimulating to hear a presentation from a metaphysicist, Prof. Peter Simons, Chair of Moral Philosophy at TCD; followed by a presentation on the influence of science fiction on engineering by Prof. Joe Pitt from Virginia Tech! More to follow tomorrow, and good for the intellect!

Finished up this evening accepting, on behalf of Engineers Ireland, a kind invitation from Liam Connellan, ex-President and Chairman of Veolia Transport in Ireland, to a reception and dinner hosted at TCD for 200 of the top management from Veolia Transport worldwide, including their global CEO Cyrille du Peloux. A pleasant evening, a chance to revisit investor relations policies from my days at IONA, and to discuss the Ryanair business model over dinner!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Spirit of Ireland seminar

We hosted a seminar by the Spirit of Ireland team this morming at Clyde Road. We had about 180 people, split over two conference rooms. We also had about 80 members following us live on our Webex-cast: playback will be available for our members at the usual Webex site. We also experimented with tweeting it live at #sptirl and displaying the tweet stream live to the audience.

Engineers Ireland neither supports nor condemns the specifics of the Spirit of Ireland proposal. Our objective this morning was to facilitate an open and honest debate amongst the professional engineering community in Ireland, and we would hope to continue and follow up this in due course.

There were numerous presenters on behalf of the Spirit of Ireland team, including in particular its two primary promoters, Graham O'Donnell and Igor Schvets. We also had presentations from the IWEA and Eirgrid on their assessments of some technical aspects of the proposal.

What I took away from the presentations are the following aspects of the proposal, but it is of course wiser to examine the Spirit of Ireland website and/or watch the presentations on webex:

⁃ The team intend to work with as many professionals as possible to derive a publicly reviewable proposal by the end of September next, which would be of sufficient depth and scope to attract potential international investors.

⁃ If the project does proceed, it would be governed by a PLC like structure, although not a publicly quoted company. It could have an investor mix of private individuals and members of the public; the State, on behalf of the citizens of Ireland; institutional investors; the European Investment Bank; and international sovereign funds. The Spirit of Ireland team do not expect to have any involvement in the governance structure, and view their work completed once the plan is accepted and being undertaken.

⁃ The project would not intend to replace or displace existing energy generation initiatives, in particular the current and planned development of wind farms across the country. Rather it is intended to be complementary.

⁃ The project proposes that new wind farms be built, with full support and endorsement and in fact leadership from local community groups. The balance sheet of the new PLC would be used to loan funds to, and/or co-invest in, communities to build these wind farms.

⁃ Like Denmark, there should be a once off national planning process, leading to a national energy atlas of wind farm sites. Once the atlas is in place, permits should be readily accessible (there be no further planning process required) to those sites in the atlas.

⁃ These new wind farms are themselves connected to a new, separate, medium scale grid. This grid would be completely separate from the current national grid. Once built, it would be operated by Eirgrid alongside the national grid.

⁃ The new grid would feed at least 2, and possibly more, large sea water reservoirs somewhere on the West coast. These would be pumped storage schemes, somewhat like Turlough Hill, but differing in important aspects: sea-water; above ground generating plant; linear rock dams (not circular structure), about 1km long each. The stored energy in each reservoir (I believe, and subject to correction) would be about 300GW hours.

⁃ The reversible hydro-electric turbines in the pumped storage schemes would then link to the current national grid (run by Eirgrid) by high voltage connections.

⁃ Some 50 alternative sites for the pumped storage schemes have been identified, and modelled in detail on a 10m by 10m by 10m grid for the west of Ireland. Several of these sites are eminently suitable.

⁃ The reservoirs may need in part, or total, sealing against sea water seepage: the costs of this are included.

⁃ Sea water based hydro electric schemes exist elsewhere. There is a pumped sea water based hydro scheme in Japan.

⁃ Depending on national strategy and national objectives, the proposal could be designed to export energy as needed (by the pumped storage scheme, not directly by the wind farms) to other jurisdictions via suitable interconnectors. It depends on what capacity of pumped storage we decide as a nation to build for our own strategic energy security, and whether or not also for the export market.

⁃ Some 10,000s of jobs would be created. Rural communities would see investment, and community profits from wind farms. Land owners over whose property the new grid was built would receive income for energy transmission. Ireland could develop its own manufacturing capability for aspects of the plant required, such as the wind turbines.

⁃ Spirit of Ireland are appealing to the professional engineering community to engage, and test and correct the proposal. Ultimately a national, apolitical, politically stable and socially endorsed effort is needed, with transparency and honesty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Innovation Awards 2009

This evening was the national finals of the Innovation Awards 2009, in association with the Irish Independent. Siemens have sponsored some of the awards for some time, and this year the Dublin Airport Authority sponsored a new category on innovative sustainability. I'm also very grateful for the judges who gave freely of their time to make very difficult choices: Malcolm Edgar, Srdjan Krco, Jack MacGowan, Gerald Nagle, Eoghan Nolan, Michael O'Connor, Damien Owens, John Power, Paul Rellis, Brendan Tuohy, Lorcan Tyrrell, and John Walshe.

In his recent budget speech, the Minister of Finance stated that ‘our economy must return to being driven by sustainable export-led growth, rather than domestic demand’. The basis for a sustainable export-led growth is a new Smart Economy, relying on innovative people applying intelligence and insight, rather than brawn, to drive growth.

Science is the discovery of what already exists. Entrepreneurship organise business. Invention yields new ideas which did not previously exist.

Innovation is however how new ideas are put into practice.

Science Foundation Ireland’s mission is to develop a world class research capability. The discovery of new things, by research, may attract foreign investment, and it may encourage the invention of new products based on insights from the natural world. We celebrate our most successful scientists via SFI, the British Telecom Young Scientists Exhibition, and indeed via others.

We also celebrate our entrepreneurs via the annual competition sponsored by Ernst and Young and Ulster Bank. Entrepreneurs manage a business, sometimes taking considerable risk. It is wonderful to see the growth of family businesses, and the implementation within Ireland of imported business models and franchises, but it is unclear whether such ventures necessarily lead to a sustainable prosperity and repair of our faltering national competitiveness.

Joseph Schumpeter, in his Theory of Economic Development, noted that innovation brings new goods, new methods of production, new markets, new sources of raw materials, and new organisational structures into practice. If we innovate and bring new products, new processes, new markets, new sources, and new business structures into practice, then we will not only change Ireland but also change the world.

In my view, innovation is the true foundation for a sustainable export-led economy. Engineers Ireland chooses to celebrate our innovators, and our innovative companies.

The 2009 winner of the Innovative Company of the Year was OpenHydro, for its successful innovation of open turbine tidal power generators. Denis O'Connor is the 2009 Innovative Engineer of the Year, providing real time monitoring of water quality for a number of local authorities. Mesut Dogan won the 2009 Sustainability award for his Intelligent Air-City Dublin initiative for Dublin airport.

In the student awards, Nicola Greene won the Sustainability category, for her Green Roofs coupled with Rainwater Harvest for Dublin Airport. Colm O'Brien won the Level 7 award for his Automated Personalised Home/Work Environment using RFID tags. John Mulvihill won the Level 8 award for his Reduction of Time Required for Haemodialysis by Optimising the Mass Transport in an Idealised Dialysis Cartridge.

Finally, Noel Joyce was highly commended for his student project on novel braking system for wheelchairs.

Our country is asking much of our innovators. It was an honour to be able to recognise some of them this evening.

Busy day at Clyde Rd

Busy day today, and was in Clyde Road from 10am-8pm.

National innovation awards for 2009, with award ceremony this evening - see next posting. Also had media interviews from the Irish Independent, Silicon Republic and the Irish Times on the awards.

We submitted some comments on the transposition of EU Directive 2006/24/EC on Data Retention, jointly to the Ministers of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. We have a number of concerns and observations, and are offering our help to assist in deriving a pragmatic solution to the revised Data Retention legislation.

We are also in discussions on behalf of the Civil Division on the CIC proposals, in which we participated, to revitalise the construction industry, and we hope to address some reputed concerns from the Department of Finance on aspects of fiscal operation of the proposals.

I followed up some earlier discussions with the BT Young Scientists organisers today with our STEPS team, seeking to work together on schools outreach in the forthcoming year.

We are in early discussions with the Cork hosts of next year's annual conference, about the format of the event, and have some interesting suggestions which would lead to even greater engagement by our sectors and divisions.

Tomorrow morning: Spirit of Ireland event. Follow us live on webex or #sptirl

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Xperience Engineering

We hosted the Xperience Engineering today at the Helix in DCU. There were 40 junior schools who reached the finals, out of 150 schools who entered nationwide.

It was a wonderful, brilliant, noisy, enthusiastic, inspiring day. The heroes of the event were of course the teachers who provide so much leadership and inspiration to our young people. And they were ably supported by parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, older brothers and sisters, and guardians. The success of the event also depends so much on volunteers and companies across the Engineering profession, who freely give their time and access for school visits to their operations, to excite and enthuse our next generation of engineers - and leaders. I also want to sincerely thank the wonderful STEPS team in Clyde Road - what an honour to work with them.

We are dependent on financial support from our commercial partners - e.g. the ESB donated some laptops as prizes, and Hasbro have been wonderful in their support - and government agencies - in particular Discover Science and Engineering, Fas, and the Department of Education and Science.

For both the Junior (3rd/4th class) and Senior (5th/6th class) Engineering Class of the Year, we had incredibly beautiful once-off, unique, statuettes made by Ciaran Byrne of the Air Corps.

I have many duties and responsibilities as the Honorary President until next spring. Today was a wonderful, happy, exciting inspirational celebration of the creativity and innovation of our young people, all of whom shouted and shouted and shouted again the answer of what do you want to be: "engineer!".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meetings, Xperience Engineering

Met yesterday with one of our new Council members, to brief her on the workings of Council.

Met today with Martin Lowery, who takes over from me this time next year, to discuss the work of the Liaison Subcommittee of Council, working with the Sectors and Divisions. We also discussed next year's annual conference and how to improve mentoring and coaching of engineers towards Chartered status.

Also had a brief chat with John Power about the logistics for next Tuesday's Spirit of Ireland event: we are expecting approximately 160 attendees, with more registering each day..

I'll be at the Xperience Engineering Primary Schools National Final tomorrow, at DCU Helix.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spirit of Ireland

A reminder that we are hosting the Spirit of Ireland team to present their proposals at 22 Clyde Road on tuesday 23rd June next. If you are not previously aware of this proposal, it is a project to make Ireland energy independent, or even a net exporter of energy, by using large sea water reservoirs on the west coast of Ireland to generate hydro electric power, in turn pumped by wind turbines to replenish the reservoirs.

This event is only for Members of Engineers Ireland, and will be an opportunity to join the debate on the engineering involved. The event will be webex'd as usual, and hopefully also live tweeted under #spirit.

If, as a Member, you have not already registered for this event and would like to do so, please contact Barry Stokes in Clyde Rd at

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Council meeting 13th June

We had our first national council meeting of 2009-10 session this morning.

While there were a fairly large number of topics discussed, a few in particular may be worth especially highlighting.

Our finances are under pressure, particularly due to cut backs in government subvention for our continued professional development (CPD) and schools outreach (STEPs) programmes, as well as the obvious economic challenges to our corporate customers and partners. Our finance subcommittee has, and continues to, monitor our situation in detail. We are reasonably optimistic of at least breaking even, from the operational perspective, by the year end.

We took the opportunity to co-opt 3 additional members to Council: Dave Kelleher, Christian Scholz and Justin Tuohy. We also confirmed the following members to the Executive this year: Domhnall Blair, John Carley, Gerry Cawley, Orla Lonergan, Dan O’Brien, Damien Owens, Jim Robinson, Con Sheahan and Tadhg Walshe. I look forward to working with the Executive, and the full Council, throughout the next 12 months.

We reviewed our activities in support of our unemployed members, and are seeking further suggestions and ideas for additional initiatives. We are particularly concerned about challenges in the Civil Engineering field.

Our investment in improving our business processes, IT support, and new web technology is progressing well, albeit it emerged to be a larger project than we had initially envisaged.

A recommendation from the Director General will be going to the first meeting of our new Executive to implement and publicise changes in our membership rules for MIEI, which has the potential to increase our membership. If the Executive so approve, then these changes and publicity could be immediately put in place.

Our next annual conference is confirmed in Cork, in late April next year.

I was very pleased with the collegiate atmosphere and involvement of our Council members, and trust we can continue to even further improve the service we provide to all our members

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jean Venables ICE Presidential Address

We hosted Jean Venables, the current President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, this evening in Clyde Rd where she gave her presidential address.

I have previously met Jean at the ICE Northern Ireland annual dinner dance earlier this year in Belfast.

Jean has a distinguished career in water and flood management, and served as the Chairperson for the Thames Region Flood Defence Committee, leading to the construction of the Thames barrier. She was recognised with an OBE in 2004. She also lectures to university engineering students, as well as having her own consultancy with her husband Roger.

Her talk tonight focussed on the threat to flood levels due to global warming, and also the carbon dioxide and energy required to maintain fresh water supplies. She argues strongly for action needed today, and fresh thinking - and she was delighted to visit the wetlands water purification project at Glaslough, Castle Leslie during her visit here. She feels that Engineers must make their voices more articulately heard with the general public, and the policy makers and Engineers have to have more active engagement.

The full text of the Presidential address is here.

BT Young Scientists et al

Met with two of the BT team this morning in Clyde Road to discuss Engineers Ireland involvement in the next Young Scientists exhibition. Personally am very supportive on their ideas to add a careers theme to the exhibition, to further encourage participants to consider engineering and science as career paths.

We also examined the role of volunteering by our retired members, and others including those currently unemployed. I believe we can take further initiatives here over the next few months.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Welcome to my blog as the 2009-2010 President of Engineers Ireland.

The main purpose of this blog is to capture my activities for Engineers Ireland, what I am doing on a day to day basis. I intend that the primary audience for this blog are the members of Engineers Ireland, and others interested in the Engineering profession in Ireland.

I maintain a different blog here for my personal opinions and musings, not necessarily related to my work for Engineers Ireland. The contents of that blog are not necessarily endorsed by Engineers Ireland.

Inaugural speech

I was approached by John McGowan, former President of Engineers Ireland, back in 2007 and asked "Chris I know you're very busy right now, but what will you be doing in two years time ?". So, I signed up to be put into the pipeline of Presidents for Engineers Ireland, and last night my twelve months started. Martin Lowery (ex IDA and Coilte) will take over from me this time next year, with PJ Rudden (MC O'Sullivan, Bord Gais and now RPS) takes over from Martin in two years time.

I attach below the inaugural speech which I gave on the 28th May 2009 at the headquarters of Engineers Ireland. Apologies for the length! The main points are:

  • Thanking my colleagues.

  • Innovation now being Ireland's highest strategic priority: in my view, innovation is rather different from invention, and is also not limited to scientific and technology discovery.

  • Regret that the national transition year scheme appears to be being diminished, since it will reduce discovery, innovation and team work with our young people.

  • Engineers Ireland to take an initiative on the teaching of higher level mathematics, applied mathematics and pure sciences in our schools.

  • Increasing Engineers Ireland's recent initiatives to assist unemployed Members.

  • Opening up Engineers Ireland to a much broader membership:

    • Opening up full membership of Engineers Ireland to ordinary bachelors degree (level 7) graduates of accredited engineering courses, in addition to honours bachelor degree (level 8) as at present;

    • Opening up full membership of Engineers Ireland to level 7 and level 8 graduates from "cognate" courses in mathematics and sciences, provided that the individual is in practice working in an engineering discipline.

  • Chartered Engineering status for graduates from 2013 will require masters (level 9) education, or demonstrated experience equivalent to masters level.

  • Encouraging and frankly expecting most, if not all, faculty members of universities and institutes of technology to become Members of Engineers Ireland, and ideally Chartered Engineers.

  • Engineering is an altruistic profession, serving society. Engineers have a duty to articulate concerns about the safety, health and welfare of society

  • Engineers in Ireland today have concerns over infrastructure issues relating to water, broadband, roads maintenance, and strategic vulnerability of national electricity supplies and grid, amongst other issues.

  • Activities in Ireland in any engineering discipline - such as civil, mechanical, electrical, bio-medical, software, petrochemical... - which impact, or could impact, the safety, health and welfare of individuals or society should be regulated so that approval is required by a Chartered Engineer. Engineers Ireland will push for regulation, and may in the short term initiate a voluntary disclosure and public register of projects which have been duly approved.

  • Ireland has suffered severely from governance failures in various sectors. Engineers Ireland already has a strong code of ethics. There is currently no national embracing legislation for good faith reporting. Members who in good faith report concerns about their employer or client, or even another Member, concerning the safety, health and welfare of individuals or society, and who subsequently feel inadequate action was taken or even worse that they were sanctioned, can bring this to the attention of Engineers Ireland which will if necessary defend such a Member.

The full text follows:

“Distinguished Guests, Fellow Members of Engineers Ireland, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

I want to sincerely thank you for choosing me as your President for 2009-2010. It is an extraordinary honour. I give you my commitment to represent this great Institution to the very best of my ability.

I would like to thank our outgoing President Jim Browne for the example which he has set for me, and for the leadership he has given throughout the past twelve months. Jim focused his Presidential year on Engineers Ireland driving the "move up the value chain" for our economy, and promoting the career opportunities for young engineers in our society. Jim provided insightful leadership at both our Executive and Council meetings, as well as having an extraordinary personal commitment to being available to our Membership, our Regions and Societies, and to representing Engineers Ireland overseas, whilst all the time carrying the heavy responsibility of leading NUI Galway. Jim, you have set me a very challenging level to try and attain.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow members of the Officer Board, namely Jack Golden, Martin Lowery and John Power for the wonderful work which they have done for Engineers Ireland and the contribution they continue to make to our institution. I warmly welcome PJ Rudden as incoming Junior Vice President. I would also like to single out John Power, and his decisive commitment and sheer determination; this was John’s second full year as Director General of Engineers Ireland, and I very much look forward to working closely with him in the twelve months ahead.

Today we say goodbye to past president Jack Golden. Jack made an outstanding contribution to the work of Engineers Ireland, particularly in developing our sense of leadership as Engineers. Jack oversaw the transition of Director General from Kevin Kiernan to John Power in September 2007. Jack also saw the momentum behind Continued Professional Development build towards 100 accredited companies: in fact under Jim's leadership, we have now reached 112 organisations, with IT Carlow recently accredited and being our first third level organisation to do so. As Jack noted in his Presidential Address, the ability of individual Engineers to develop leadership skills as part of their Continuing Professional Development, combined with the ability to innovate and develop technical solutions, singles out Engineering as a major contributor to ensuring the sustainability of this planet, and to improving the well-being and prosperity of our society. Jack - thank you for your tremendous contribution. We will miss your insightful advice and calm determination - as well as your humour.

I take up this Presidency at a very interesting time for Engineering in Ireland. Our country has up until the recent past been the envy of many of our overseas colleagues as our Celtic Tiger economy surged ahead. Now however we are facing the most serious challenge to our economy, and to a sustainable prosperity, since the foundation of the State.

Since the 1960s, Ireland has chosen international trade as its key national focus, ultimately making our country one of the most openly traded economies in the world. However since 2004, we have changed some of our emphasis to domestic demand, driven by cheap debt financing in the Euro zone. Although our construction industry has underpinned our recent economic growth until just a few months ago, it has largely focused on domestic opportunity, in publicly funded infrastructure, commercial property and domestic housing. In my view our construction industry now needs to more proactively consider export growth while retaining appropriate domestic capacity, using the skills we have gained at home to bring new techniques, processes and skills to the global market.

Our pharmaceutical, medical device and information&communications technology industries have been underpinned by foreign direct investment, and are of course export oriented. However in our multinationals and indigenous firms, we need to be more proactive in supporting and nurturing innovation with the global market as our clear objective measure of success. Our private sector investment community, both institutional and high net worth individuals, have recently largely been focused on domestic construction and overseas property speculation, rather than investment in innovative projects with potential for the global market. Our innovators, whether start-ups or spin-outs, have found it challenging to raise their necessary funds.

A sustained emphasis on innovation for the global market should be our highest national priority. Innovation need not only be as a result of scientific and technology research, but also arise from insights in process improvement and service delivery, and in many different sectors of our economy. Innovation for the global market will yield sustainable employment. The alternative, of instead focussing upon job creation as our highest priority and ahead of innovation, is susceptible to employment only for short term, and at risk from the subsequent migration of those jobs to more advantageous foreign locations.

Ireland has benefited from our foresight of low corporation tax. It is now by no means certain that corporation tax advantages can continue to be a primary catalyst to jobs in Ireland, with pressure from both our European colleagues and from national employment priorities within the USA. While using corporation tax to our advantage for as long as possible, it is clear we need to move on and to emphasise a replacement to our strategy of tax competition: in my view, that should be innovation for the global market.

Our scientists discover what already exists in the world around us. Our entrepreneurs build businesses, sometimes taking personal fiscal risk, but often mitigating that risk by adopting business models which are already proven elsewhere. Inventors yield new ideas which did not previously exist. However, innovation lays the strongest foundation for export driven success. Innovators put new ideas into practice, bringing new products, new services and new business models to the global market. Innovation must be our highest national priority.

In Engineers Ireland, we already celebrate the most Innovative Company of the Year, the most Innovative Engineer and the most Innovative Student of the year.

Innovation is now absolutely critical to our future prosperity. It is important that we nurture an innovative culture in young adults. I am therefore disappointed to learn that our Department of Education and Science is reputedly reducing support for the transition year. The transition year has evolved to become one key opportunity for young adults to experiment and innovate in group, rather than in just individual, settings. I believe that Ireland will be poorer for this decision.

Last week, I had the honour of awarding the Engineers Ireland annual award for Science, Engineering and Technology Awareness to Jim Cooke. Jim is a teacher at Synge St CBS, and has had a remarkable record of wins, both overall and by category, by his students in the BT Young Scientists exhibition, especially those from the transition year. Indeed, Jim has just returned from Nevada where Andrei Triffo, this year's individual winner for his project "Infinite Sums of Zeta Functions and other Dirichlet Series" has just been placed third worldwide. However, in his acceptance speech, Jim noted the diminishing availability of honours leaving certificate mathematics, applied mathematics and physics at many of our inner city schools and indeed nationwide. Honours teaching in these subjects must continue to be prerequisites for professional engineering, and during my Presidential Year I expect Engineers Ireland to take an initiative in this regard.

As well as encouraging more young people to chose Engineering as a career, I believe it vital that we provide every reasonable assistance to any of our Members who face professional challenges. In addition to our Benevolent Fund, and to our encouragement for Continued Professional Development, we are currently unusually faced with the demise of employment prospects for some of our Members especially in the construction sector. During my Presidential Year, I expect that Engineers Ireland will continue to take initiatives to assist unemployed Members, up to and including the possibility of mid-career retraining as Engineers for those sectors which in fact have shortages of engineering professionals, such as for example Mechanical, Electrical and Software Engineers.

In Engineers Ireland, in my view, we have had a rather inflexible and rigorous position in insisting that only graduates from accredited undergraduate degree courses in Engineering may become Members. During my Presidential Year and in fact imminently, I fully expect that Engineers Ireland will offer the full benefits of membership not only to level 7 as well as level 8 university graduates from accredited Engineering courses, but also to level 7 and 8 graduates from cognate undergraduate courses in the physical sciences and mathematics, whose careers now in practical terms position them as Engineers.

Concurrently, Engineers Ireland took a decision in May 2007 that those aspiring to Chartered Engineering status in Ireland from 2013 will not only require professional experience and an interview, as is currently our practice, but also to achieve level 9 (that is Masters level) from an accredited course, or to show competence equivalent to a level 9 standard. This in turn will bring us into alignment with concurrent changes in our peer professional engineering organisations overseas.

Our changes to membership - opening it up to level 7 engineers, and to level 7 and 8 cognate graduates - and our changes to the requirements for Chartered Engineering status - level 9 from 2013 - all present Engineers Ireland with an obligation to further engage with our Universities and Institutes of Technology. During my Presidential Year, I expect a concerted encouragement to ensure that our student Engineers are instructed by faculty staff who are themselves Members of Engineers Ireland, and ideally Chartered Engineers.

Those of us who have chosen Engineering as a profession, whatever our primary degrees, are devoting our careers to service to the public. Our Continued Professional Development programme assists us to maintain current with changes in our vocation. The Engineering profession is altruistic and conscious of its responsibility to society at large. It is important therefore that Engineers articulately voice any concerns to the public.

At this time, Ireland is facing a number of strategic challenges not just to our economy, but also to our infrastructure. The media and the public at large recognise that the quality of our water supplies, and indeed our sea bathing water, is not only impacting our tourist industry, but also the health and welfare of our society. Coastal erosion together with rising sea levels, and changes to our flood plains, are of some media and public concern. A world class national pervasive broadband service is sorely absent, and is commented upon. The National Roads Authority this week have raised concerns about the maintenance of our road infrastructure, including our expensively developed new motorway and dual carriageway network. In addition to these challenges, there are others which perhaps have not yet widely reached public attention. For example, a national strategy for energy security, in the face of our increasing dependency on natural gas and wind together with the retirement of elderly plants, should be a national concern, particularly when investment capital for wind farms is increasingly difficult to obtain, and the controversy at the Corrib gas field project continues. The Commission for Energy Regulation routinely publishes on its web site our national electricity generating capacity versus our consumption, yet few members of the public or media seem to observe the risk of "brown-outs" from these figures. If "brown-outs" were ever to occur then, as an example of one consequence, our Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland may overnight became dangerously wounded by international perceptions.

In some other jurisdictions, any works which may impact the safety, health and welfare of individuals or the society at large must by law be duly vetted by professional engineers - whether such works be civil, mechanical, electrical, electronic, pharmaceutical, software or indeed of any engineering discipline. In Ireland at this time, no such legislation exists and yet it surely must be in the interest of Irish society that all technology works are professionally evaluated and approved. Regulation of the the Engineering profession in Ireland is, in my view, an urgent issue but I admit one that may not be fully achievable in the limited term of a single year as your President. During my Presidential year, I do nevertheless expect that we will make progress in this regard, including a voluntary disclosure and register of those works, in any engineering discipline, which have been vetted by a Chartered Engineer.

Engineers Ireland has a strong Code of Ethics, which is published on our web site. Unfortunately in Ireland, we have learnt of malpractice and ill judgement in other sectors - for example, in our health care, in our financial institutions, and in both our local and national administrations. The 2006 Lourdes Hospital Report identified a reluctance for professional staff to report malpractice from a colleague in the medical profession. The CEO of one of our major banks has recently publicly apologised to one of his internal auditors who had reputedly been threatened by his employer. We have read of woeful corporate governance at some of our most important commercial organisations, and of regular waste of public funds investigated by the Dail Public Accounts Committee.

Our Government in recent years has introduced some legislation protecting good faith reporting, but on a case by case basis limited at this time to governing child abuse, consumer protection, some competitive issues, ethics in public office and for the Garda Siochana. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reportedly considering an overall national safeguard framework but has yet to present its deliberations to the Dail and Seanad.

In Engineers Ireland, while protecting the legitimate interests of his or her employer and clients, each of our Members will not, above all else, engage in any activity which he or she knows, or has reasonable grounds for believing, is likely to result in a serious detriment to person or persons. If one of our Members has such concerns and in good faith has brought them to the attention of his employer or client without appropriate response, then he or she can bring it to the attention of Engineers Ireland. Furthermore if an Engineer becomes aware, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that another Member of Engineers Ireland is engaging in conduct or has engaged in conduct which is in breach of our Code of Ethics, and is likely to result in a serious detriment to any person or persons, then he or she is likewise expected to bring this other Member to the attention of the Institution.

Engineers serve the public with very high standards for the safety, health and welfare of society. Engineers Ireland ensures that these standards are maintained. I fully expect that during my Presidential Year, the high ethics of our altruistic profession of Engineering will be maintained. Engineers Ireland will where necessary defend any of its Members who, in good faith, report concerns relating from any engineering works in any sector of engineering for the safety, health and welfare of society, and then are subsequently threatened with sanction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I sincerely am awed by the trust which Engineers Ireland have put on me as your President for the next twelve months. So much has already been achieved by Jim Browne and our other Past Presidents. I have extraordinary high standards to try to sustain. There is still much to be done, and I sincerely look forward to serving the Profession with humility and dedication."

Global Energy Scenarios

Attended a very interesting breakfast briefing at the Conrad in Dublin, by Jeremy Bentham, from Shell International's global headquarters in Den Haag.

Jeremy discussed Shell's modelling analyses of global energy mix portfolios, based on 80 different countries, and 8 different sectors (industry, domestic, transportation etc..) until 2050.

There are various scenarios, from "scramble" where there is an uncoordinated grab for energy supplies, and all that that implies, between nations; to "blueprint", where there are internationally co-ordinated agreements, from example using the United Nations.

A summary is available online from Shell here.

In my humble opinion, the message for Ireland is clear: as a matter of national security, Ireland should not assume that we will be able to continue to import energy supplies (e.g. oil, gas, or even coal...) from foreign suppliers.

Finance Committe Meeting

Had a scheduled Finance Committee meeting at Clyde Rd this evening (5pm-7pm), and before nest Saturday's Council.

The recession is biting, and our cost control, whilst not only maintaining services for our members, but also investing for our growth, is critical.