Wednesday, 28 September 2011

New National Compost Standard IS441 launched

I was invited by the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government 'Market Development Group rx3' to the launch of the first national compost standard by the Minister Phil Hogan TD and the Chief Executive of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) Maurice Buckley Chartered Engineer.

'rx3 - Rethink Recycle Remake' was set up by the Dept of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in 2008 to increase recycling in Ireland and to create new products and sustainable employment at home instead of exporting to Europe and Asia. The programme is for 5 years and is currently in mid cycle. The three waste materials under research focus are Paper, Plastics and Organics. Paper and Plastics are generally exported for recycling but a substantial quantity is still landfilled until better recycling infrastructure is developed in Ireland. Organic or food waste is either composted or disposed to landfill in Ireland.

Under the EU Landfill Directive sending organic or food waste to landfill is increasingly unacceptable so 'rx3' is developing alternative products and markets in Ireland for different specification composts including golf courses, public parks, playing pitches and roadside grass verges. Crop trials are currently ongoing in the soils of different counties to confirm what compost qualities work best in different soil types.

We were launching the first Irish Standard for Compost Quality - IS 441 setting out the preference for source separation of organic waste to prevent cross contamination so that a quality compost is guaranteed and can compete with Bord na Mona and other home produced composts. 

The recycling of food and garden waste into a high quality compost is important as biodegradable material (paper and food/garden waste) makes up some 60% of the normal household bin. Paper and other dry recyclables are collected in the green bin while food and other 'wet' waste is collected in the brown bin. The contents of both bins should go to recycling and the remaining black bin residual waste should be used for energy recovery in preference to landfill as the last resort.

The Minister has published a very sustainable new Draft Waste Policy which we hope to see adopted by year end so that maximum waste recycling and energy recovery can proceed in order to minimise the landfill of waste. This new policy will build on the success of the current national waste policy 'Changing Our Ways' published in 1998 which led to municipal waste recycling rising from 8% to some 38% over the past ten years through the steady implementation of the regional waste management plans.

Unfortunately there was stagnation in waste policy implementation over the period 2007 to 2011 which led to lack of investment in waste infrastructure and from which it will take Ireland many years to recover in environmental improvement terms. At least with the waste policy of the new Government which has a very strong political mandate, we can start making progress again.

 Conor McGovern Manager rx3, Olivier Gaillot Project Manager rx3, Maurice Buckley Chief  Executive of NSAI,
Minister Phil Hogan TD and PJ Rudden  President of Engineers Ireland

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

2011 Naughton Scholars Awarded

On Saturday afternoon I felt very privileged as President of Engineers Ireland to have been invited to the 2011 Award of the Naughton Scholarships in the Science Gallery in Trinity College together with Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn, new Trinity Provost Patrick Prendergast and UCD President Hugh Brady.

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn
pictured with the 2011 Naughton Scholars
I don't say 'privileged' lightly as when I discovered the scale of the generosity of Martin and Carmel Naughton and their family, I thought it was a tremendous contribution to Irish education especially when coupled with the funding of the Naughton Institute which houses the Science Gallery and support for Education and the Arts North and South including the Naughton Chair of Business Strategy at QUB and the Millennium Wing of the National Gallery in Dublin. 

Minister Quinn at the event with Martin and Carmel Naughton
When I returned home I looked up the definition of 'philanthropy' - 'love of humanity' it said. That aptly describes my evening experience with the Naughtons and no other words would describe better what they are doing and the genuine motivation behind these Scholarships.

The Naughton Scholarships were established in January 2008 and are designed 'to promote the study of engineering, science and technology in any publicly funded university or third level institution in Ireland including Northern Ireland. The scholarships initially served counties Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal and Mayo with Leitrim and Sligo this year and extending to Longford and Roscommon next year.

In 2011, 16 secondary school students from 8 counties are funded for 3 years. The Gold Scholarship in each county is for €16,000 and the Silver is for €8,000 together with Science Laboratory equipment funding for each winning school. Most of the winners appeared to have achieved an extraordinary number of A1s in the Leaving Certificate. (See attached press release for the names of winners).

Apart from the scale of the funding, I could clearly see that the entire family of Martin and Carmel were present to assist on the night including sons, daughters, sons in law and daughters in law - all of them genuinely committed to work for the students and their families.

Martin himself in a modest speech spoke of the business he started in Newry with 7 employees in 1973. He acquired Dimplex in 1977 moving to a new base in Dunleer Co Louth where the headquarters remains.

The Glen Dimplex Group is now global with subsidiaries in Europe, US, Canada, China, Japan and New Zealand and current staff of 8,500 and annual turnover in excess of €1.5billion. They are now the largest electrical heating manufacturers in the world incorporating well known brands like Morphy Richards, Belling, Roberts Radio and Creda.

Master of Ceremonies on the night was Fergal Naughton Deputy CEO of Glen Dimplex. Fergal is a Chartered Engineer with Engineers Ireland having qualified with a BA BAI from Trinity in 1998 which he followed with an MSc in Engineering from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard.

The award to this year's Naughton Scholars was an extraordinary event the value of which in Engineering Science and Technology Education terms made a big impression on me. It was all started by Martin and Carmel Naughton who know the true value of what they are doing for Education on the island of Ireland.

Having met them, I salute their 'love of humanity' and their human interest in all who are lucky to cross their path in life.

September Council Meeting

On Saturday morning last we had our September Council meeting with a very full attendance from around the country and a full Agenda.

For me, the two highlights of the meeting were the presentation by Tom Leahy of Dublin City Council on the joint Engineers Ireland/Irish Academy of Engineering submission to Government on the setting up of Irish Water and secondly the unanimous approval of Council to our Advertising Campaign for Chartered Engineer going live on TV, radio and social media in November of this year.

Tom Leahy is a wonderful presenter. He really brought the whole national infrastructural deficit in water alive for us in a most illustrative way. Our water supply scheme in Dublin for instance dates from Victorian times so that it is close on 150 years old. When it was 100 years old in the 70s and 80s like the aging human, it needed urgent remedial work which it really didn't get as our EU Funding then went into 'playing catch up' with Dublin's expansion and massive regional development around our major cities and towns.

In the 80s and 90s water expenditure in Dublin was going into the then new Western Towns of Blancherstown/Castleknock, Clondalkin/Lucan and Tallaght/Firhouse. At the same time both domestic rates and water charges were abolished for political reasons - both mindless crazy decisions at the time from which Local Government funding in Ireland never really recovered.

As Tom told us, you can imagine the state in which our Water Infrastructure is in now! It needs an urgent rescue and therefore the transfer of the infrastructural planning and implementation function to a new dedicated national water utility. This new body will have a commercial remit and the introduction of use related charges through metering is most welcome as a 'new start' in terms of funding.

The current system is broken and therefore does need fixing and soon. The Dublin water supply in particular is on a 'knife edge' supply wise as the recent harsh winters have shown and needs urgent addressing in terms of strong demand management, increased water conservation and development of a new major supply source from the Shannon basin.

The second presentation was jointly given by Margie McCarthy Membership Director and Fionnuala Kilbane Communications Director on the recent Membership Survey on our perceived deficits and how we will address them. Members surveyed say we need to increase our public profile and explain what is the role of the Chartered Engineer to the general public.

Well we are about to do just that as on Saturday we approved a 2 to 3 year campaign on TV, radio and social media to highlight the critical role that Chartered Engineers play in the Irish Economy.

To the music of 'This Land is Your Land This Land is My Land' the short TV advert will profile a selected cross section of our Member Engineers doing what we as a profession do - building new roads and bridges, prolonging human life in hospitals through biomedical engineering, building and maintaining our energy supplies, our water supply and manufacturing new electronic, computing and pharmaceutical products that make up the bulk of our exports. Expect to see the new campaign on your screens by middle of November!

The Council also took a decision to change the name of the 'ICT Division' in Engineers Ireland to the 'Computing Division' which makes a lot of sense as we want to show increased relevance and purpose to that growing sector of our economy.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Making Dublin a Smarter City

John Power and I visited Dublin City Council on Friday last for their celebration of 10 years as a CPD Accredited Engineering Employer with Engineers Ireland.

We were greeted by the Lord Mayor Cllr Andrew Montague and Michael Phillips City Engineer and Director of Traffic. The Keynote Speaker at the event was Minister of Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn introduced by Tom Leahy Executive Manager Engineering and CPD Director at Dublin City Council.

There was a very impressive Public Exhibition in the Atrium of City Hall of the role that Engineering and in particular that Engineers play in maintaining the lives of the citizens of Dublin. So much of it taken as a given by the general public, except when things go wrong. What would happen if our Engineers failed to produce clean water in our taps, sufficient water quantity and pressure to fight fires, prevent flooding in our streets after heavy rain or high tides, ensure traffic flow, maintain adequate street lighting at night, safe roads and bridges, waste recycling and the overall emergency services.  Also on display, was a most detailed and impressive model of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) that was used in the construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel (2001 - 2006) at an overall cost of €750millon.

The exhibition wasn’t only about the 'present' in Dublin but about the 'future' also. Innovation Dublin is a showcase of future municipal services automation in partnership with IBM to make Dublin more 'resource efficient' and a Smarter City.

Dublin sees itself as a Sustainable City and Dublin City Council sees itself as that Agent for Change in terms of Sustainability. This is expressed in terms of 6 specific objectives - Urban Form, Movement, Economic/Jobs, Social, Cultural and Environmental. All contribute to a modern design-led New Urban Space that is Dublin.

There are ambitious infrastructural plans for the future of Dublin including finding a new major water supply river source, city centre district heating from a new waste to energy plant and a tidal barrage at the mouth of the Liffey if or when there is increased flooding due to climate change effects.

From Left to Right: Michael Philips Director of Traffic & City Engineer Dublin City Council,
John Power Director General Engineers Ireland, Lord Mayor of Dublin Andrew Montague, 
PJ Rudden President of Engineers Ireland, Minister for Education and Science Ruairi Quinn, T.D
and Tom Leahy Executive Manager, Engineering Department Dublin City Council.

Gerry O'Connell of the CPD Team kindly gave me a visit to the Traffic Control Centre from where all signalling at Junctions in the city is controlled using CCTV and traffic models to comply with the City Traffic Management Plan, and are all connected to our local radio stations around the city - Another 24/7 operation overseen by engineers.

I had a special interest in all of this because my first job after my graduation was with the Water Department of Dublin City Council as Graduate Engineer. I worked for 3 years in the principal water treatment plant at Ballymore Eustace firstly as a Graduate then as Executive Engineer where I gained my first valuable engineering and industrial relations experience as that too was a 24/7 operation to produce a sufficient supply of clean and safe drinking water at all times.

I left Dublin City Council feeling that it was in good engineering hands with Michael Phillips, Tom Leahy and their staff. They do a terrific job in keeping all of the services in the City running.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Chartered Biomedical Engineer is new Trinity Provost

I had the pleasant task on Monday of accepting the kind invitation to attend the Inaugural Address of the new Provost of Trinity College Professor Patrick Prendergast, a biomedical/mechanical engineer and native of Co Wexford. He will serve a 10 year term as Provost.

He is the 44th Provost of Trinity and was Professor of Bioengineering from 2007 to 2011. He is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of Engineers Ireland - the second Chartered Engineer to head an Irish University following in the footsteps of Dr Jim Browne current President in NUIG. Both of them incidentally qualified as Mechanical Engineers.

Paddy graduated in Mechanical Engineering in 1983 and later with a PhD in Bioengineering. He then did research in Italy and the Netherlands before returning to lecture in Trinity in 1995. Together with colleagues in Engineering, Dentistry, Medicine and Physiology he established the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering in 2002.

Prof Prendergast's research is in the area of medical device technologies where he has developed well known theories on mechanoregulation of tissue behaviour. He has significant industrial collaboration in implant design and development including his role on the board of Clearstream Technologies plc who manufacture stents and catheters for the medical device market.

His Address was inspiring. It concentrated on the global position of Trinity and the need for increased 'research based education.' Education should be based on outputs not inputs in terms of teaching hours, he said. Universities delivering quality education to large numbers of students could be significant creators of jobs.

'A recent survey of employer expectations showed that employers of our graduates value critical and independent thinking, excellent communications skills and students who have developed a capacity for responsibility and initiative through extra curriculum activities' he stated. This sounds like the modern definition of what the products of a modern university should be.

'Students who are even wiser than they were yesterday; students engaged in lifelong learning, who are sound in their foundations but not stuck in their opinions; that's what we want. That's who will reap most private benefit and who will sow most public good' he said.

All in all as I listened to the new Provost setting out his vision it sounded like the 21st century vision for Third Level Education - a lot like the modern day John Henry Newman who in the 1800s wrote world famous English prose on describing the ideal university and indeed the ideal gentlemen - bizarrely ladies did not go to university in the 19th century!

All of us in Engineers Ireland wish this highly talented Engineer now Provost of Trinity College every success in his challenging new role over the next 10 years.

Professor of Bio-Engineering and Newly elected Provost at Trinity College Dublin,
Professor Patrick Prendergast (Trinity College Dublin)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Civil Engineering Contractors Annual Dinner

Last Friday night I was invited as a guest to the Annual Dinner of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association by their President Charles Wills and CIF Director Don O'Sullivan.

There was a very respectable turnout considering the extent to which this particular industry has been impacted by the recession. In his Address Charles Wills talked of their past achievements in the building of national infrastructure in Roads Water and Energy and of their hopes for early economic recovery to enable their members to continue building up our Infrastructure.

'We won't be safe unless we can count on our infrastructure' US President Barack Obama has said.

I think our own Government realise this too as there is talk of reinvesting some of the proceeds of the partial sale of semi-state companies into productive investment in infrastructure which will be very welcome if realised.

Engineers Ireland emphasised the importance of infrastructure in Transport Water Energy Waste and Communications in our State of Ireland Infrastructure Report of last May.

I am also in the course of visiting selected infrastructure projects around the regions to further underpin our ambitions to again ramp up infrastructure spending and to support balanced regional development and job creation.

Pictured (from Left to Right) at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Dinner, with Tom Parlon Director General CIF,
Charles Wills President CECA, Matt Gallagher President CIF, PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland and
Don O'Sullivan Secretary CECA and Director of CIF.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Building a Sustainable Recovery

Each year in September the President gives a Presidential Address (click here to download Presidential Address) on an issue or issues of national engineering importance.

I gave my Address on Wednesday night on the theme Building a Sustainable Recovery. I was pleasantly surprised at the large representative crowd who came to hear what I had to say.

I focused on our Education system, which in turn fosters our Economic and Spatial Planning approach. This in turn creates the conditions for Innovation and Enterprise, which will lead to Sustainable Recovery and Job Creation - our central theme. I will let the presentation speak for itself. (Click here to download webcast)

Roadmap for Recovery

My views on the Maths issue were taken up by the media who, like ourselves, are greatly exercised with this issue in our Second Level Schools, particularly the issue of unqualified Maths teachers. As a result I was interviewed on Morning Ireland the following morning on this issue. (Click here to listen to Morning Ireland webcast)

Since the Address and the interview I'm very grateful for the kind comments of many members who attended on Wednesday night or have since heard the Morning Ireland interview.

Both are available on webcast on the Engineers Ireland website  and on RTE website  respectively. I'm also very grateful for the very professional support of John Power our Director General and Fionnuala Kilbane our Communications Director.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Official Opening of UCD Science Centre by Taoiseach

On Friday last I was invited by UCD President Hugh Brady to attend the Official Opening of Phase 1 of the new Science Centre to be performed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. I was kindly met beforehand by Professor Gerry Byrne Incoming Dean of Engineering with whom I attended the Opening. Gerry is also a past President of Engineers Ireland (2000 - 2001).

In addition to meeting the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, I also met President Hugh Brady and Vice President of Research Des Fitzgerald.

Pictured with the Taoiseach touring the New UCD Science Centre and meeting staff together with from left Professor Hugh Brady UCD President, Professor Pat Guiry UCD Chemistry, Professor Gerry Byrne UCD Dean of Engineering (partly hidden), P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland and Professor Des Fitzgerald UCD Vice President of Research

The new Science Centre is on the site of the old Science Block beside the lake and the Arts Block/Library where I did Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Maths Physics in First Engineering in the 1970s but has been completely transformed architecturally and internally. The new space is merely Phase 1 of what will be the single largest capital investment (€300m) in third level education in the history of the state.

We toured the new Centre for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discovery with the Taoiseach, who stopped from time to time to hear the scientific story attached to this or that piece of laboratory equipment or simply to enquire the origins of the many Irish and multicultural staff employed there.

The new Centre involved the gutting of the old Chemistry building and the construction of significant additional space with a new highly appealing architectural entrance, not at all reminiscent of the old Belfield which I once knew.

The Taoiseach appeared to be highly impressed by what he saw and heard and that was very obvious in his inspirational speech at the Official Opening afterwards.

The new Building will house three new research units - the Institute of Food and Health, the Centre for Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Centre for Nanomedicine. UCD currently have some 200 collaborative partnerships underway in the general science area and the nexus of this creative endeavour is the Science Centre.

UCD Science Centre

UCD President Hugh Brady stated

"Investment in research is a necessity not a luxury. It is the foundation for the discoveries and technology developments that will build the economy of the future. The new Science Centre highlights innovation as part of the engineering and science life cycle. The project is creating what we call a transformative resource for Ireland to spark an innovation revolution in Ireland.'

The striking thing about this visit was to see at first hand research engineers and scientists working side by side in a common purpose.

The reason was this is clear. There is no boundary between Bioscience and Bioengineering but all working together in the interest of Assisted Living.

I look forward to seeing further phases of this extremely impressive enterprise completed at UCD. Principal of the UCD College of Engineering and Architecture Gerry Byrne is equally excited about this new development. 'Obviously there are new ideas being generated across the board but often the science end of the relationship would be working on the basics and engineering on the application and transfer' he says.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

September Executive Meeting

The Executive meet last Thursday to do the monthly review of Engineers Ireland finances which are relatively healthly.

We also discussed the proposed Communications Campaign for Chartered Engineer due to commence on radio and TV later this Autumn and to run for at least 2 years.

I don't wish to spoil the viewer's or the listener's fun in terms of the lyrics and theme music which will be used. Suffice it to say that it will be impactful and will showcase all the main Engineering Sectors in Ireland using some of our engineering members as role models.

This will be part of the public profile raising by Engineers Ireland to show the relevence of the Chartered Engineer in modern Irish society.

We also got an update on the Review of our Bylaws to be completed by the end of the year.

Finally we reviewed the very many thanks and compliments sent by Leaving Cert students to Engineers Ireland following receipt of their Results last month. 'Thank you for the free Maths grinds which helped me get my grades' was the general sentiment expressed. This again is Engineers Ireland doing something tangible and sustainable going forward. Better to be doing something  than simply talking about it!

Visit to Research Institutes in Galway

Last Wednesday John Power Director General and I travelled to Galway to visit the Research Institutes in NUIG and the Marine Institute in Oranmore.

This was the first of a number of planned visits to Research Institutes around Ireland to experience at first hand Research, Innovation and the Job Creation possibilities emanating from these relatively new Centres of Learning in Third Level Education. We also wanted to concentrate our visits outside of Dublin to show support for balanced regional development.

Both visits turned out to be fascinating and very worthwhile, not only in seeing what Research is happening in Third Level Institutes but also to see the appreciation of the engineers and scientists working there at our efforts to reach out to them.

From the Forfas Research Forum in Dublin the previous day I can see that there is now a 'steady hand on the tiller' nationally coordinating the research efforts to target areas of potential strategic and economic advantage for Ireland. This was one of the recommendations of the Innovation Task Force Report of March 2010 one of whose members was Chris Horn President of Engineers Ireland in 2009-2010.

Both visits were kindly organised by Prof Padraic O'Donoghue of Civil and Environmental Engineering NUIG who is also Chairman of our West Region and member of our Executive Board.

In NUIG the visits were led by Professor Terry Smith Vice President of Research and Professor of Biomedical Engineering Peter McHugh. We also visited Dr Colin Brown Director and Martina Prendergast of the Ryan Institute (Environment, Marine and Energy Research) and Michael Turley CEO and his colleagues Patrick Mulrooney Commercialisation Manager and Dr Brian Wall Operations Manager at Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI). We also met the Vice Dean of Engineering Dr Eddie Jones.

Much of what we saw in NUIG was truly impressive. In terms of Biomedical Science and Engineering there appears to have been a historical collaboration with local industry clusters commencing with Boston Scientific going back many years and more recently with Creganna and Crospon (of which our Vice President John O'Dea is CEO).

There was also a succession of visionary NUIG Presidents, starting with Prof Pat Fortrell, who had the good sense to acquire an enviable land bank along the banks of the Corrib from the Newcastle Road to well beyond the Quincentenary Bridge that enabled the new Engineering Building, the Ryan Institute and DERI. To have all of this research endeavour on a single campus including also the Institute for Business Social Science and Public Policy was also a success factor.

The DERI fascination was with newly developed 'search engine' software that is more powerful than Google!
Stent Engineering
Whatever the combination of factors a truly remarkable Biomedical and Digital capability has been built in NUIG. I found the technical and biochemical aspects of stent engineering especially fascinating where stent material is also therapeutic in addition to its structural capacity.


We then travelled to the Marine Institute in Oranmore where we were met by Dr Barbara Fogarty National Coordinator of the Marine Technology Programme and her colleagues Glenn Nolan, Eoin O'Grady and Paul Gaughan, who are Section Managers in Oceanographic Services, IS&D and the SmartBay Project Coordinator respectively. The Marine Institute set up in Galway in 2006 is the national agency for Marine Research, Technology, Development and Innovation. The research carried out here is central to the future development of our Ocean Resources in terms of Shipping, Oil/Gas, Renewables, Sea Fisheries and Marine Leisure/Tourism.

The Institute is made up of 7 Service Areas, inc Strategic Planning, Marine Environment and Marine Food Safety. We toured the Institute's marine laboratories, which are quite extensive.

Afterwards we attended an excellent lecture jointly organised by the West and Thomond Regions in the Marine Institute given by Barbara Fogarty and Eugene McKeown of Biospheric Ltd in Galway on the SmartBay Project in Galway Bay. This is a Research Test and Demonstration Facility for Marine Information and Communications, Technologies, ICT, inc wireless and subsea sensor networks. This monitoring infrastructure was jointly established by the Marine Institute and the EPA in 2008.

SmartBay Project

John and I returned to Dublin that night with a real sense that we had been at the coalface of national engineering innovation across a wide spectrum of specialisations in Galway, both land-based and marine and all endeavours concentrated on just two highly planned and well chosen sites both east and west of Galway city. Our thanks again to Prof Padraic O'Donoghue for organising these most interesting and worthwhile visits.

Monday, 12 September 2011

National Research Forum

Hi all! Welcome back to my Blog after the summer break!

Last Tuesday I attended the National Research Prioritisation Stakeholder Forum organised by Forfas - Ireland's policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation. The Research Strategy Group, set up by Minister Batt O'Keeffe in Sept 2010, is chaired by Jim O'Hara of Intel.

Neil Kerrigan Manager Industry Commercialisation Programmes in Enterprise Ireland and P J Rudden President of Engineers Ireland attending the Forfas National Research Forum.

This half-day event chaired by Forfas CEO Martin Shanahan was attended by over 200 experts drawn from Government Depts, Forfas, Enterprise Ireland, Third Level Colleges, Research Institutes and Research Companies.

Some 20 priority areas were examined in a broad spectrum across the Irish Economy including Food, Marine, Biomedicine, ICT, Creative Arts, Tourism, Renewable Energy, Smart Cities and Environment.

Recommendations will now be made by Forfas to the Government on Research Priorities to be underpinned by future investment. This was a very impressive exercise informed by specialist 'break out' group sessions in the main priority areas.

The Steering Group will report to Richard Bruton Minister for Employment Jobs and Innovation before the end of 2011.