2011 was a difficult year for our industry. Many of the markets and government programmes in which consultants and engineers operate have been hard hit by government efforts to reduce the deficit, and by constrained private investment.
So it is particularly important now to recognise the impressive and innovative work that our industry still delivers time and time again.
ACE is presently receiving your remarkable entries for our Engineering Excellence Awards. Over the years these have become a big night for the industry as companies large and small, and the staff that make them successful, get the recognition their best projects deserve.
And I’m pleased to say ACE and NCE will be coming together shortly to announce the winner of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award, and the Young Consultant of the Year.
The excellence for which our industry is well recognised is no accident. It is the result of a great deal of hard work, adaptation and innovation. And while recognising that the end result of that work is important, recognising the change as it happens matters too.
The world is changing fast. More and more nations are investing to de-carbonise their energy supplies. This is a development that will require the UK to build new infrastructure to distribute energy generated in renewable-rich Scotland to population centres in the rest of Great Britain.
Where once we spoke regularly of BRIC nations growing and becoming major economic powers, we now talk of CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa) as the next powers to rise and generate work that our members will be keen to win.
At the same time the population of the developing world is urbanising fast, creating challenges for nations as they seek to build the homes and supply the water, food and energy needed to sustain growing cities.
However, the big changes that help meet these challenges are often changes within engineering itself, both technologically and in terms of new best practice.
We are seeing the development now of a new working philosophy that some believe will radically change the way engineering and all construction works. The rapid development of Building Information Modelling is being looked at by a group formed within government so as to ensure that public procurement reflects the opportunity this represents. Mark Bew, the chair of that group, is interviewed on page 22 of this edition.
Mark Bew will also be speaking in detail at ACE’s Annual Conference on 23 May. The conference will look at how the UK gets it infrastructure back on track after the World Economic Forum ranked Britain 26 in the world for Infrastructure standards. Business Secretary Vince Cable will offer us the government view on the subject, after they recently announced both a five hundred project pipeline and plans to build High Speed 2 (page 11), so there will be plenty to discuss with clients and stakeholders on the day.
It is remarkable to think how the political debate on our sector has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time. I remember Lord Digby Jones, once a business minister with Labour, explain that the debate over High Speed 2 should never have been whether it got built. Instead it should only have been about which route it took.
In the end he got his wish, but in politics we have seen the same with infrastructure investment. There is debate between different groups and parties about what should be built and how best it should be funded. But all areas of politics have arrived that the view that infrastructure is the UK’s path back to economic growth and job creation.
That is a positive position for the UK’s engineers. A strong base in the UK and the quick adoption of new technology can be a valuable platform for taking expertise abroad to win work in emerging nations.