Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Irish Planning Institute Annual Dinner

On Friday November 11th I attended the Annual Dinner of the Irish Planning Institute as a guest of their President Brendan Allen.

It was an enjoyable night marked by the award of IPI Fellowship to the Dept of the Environment Community and Local Government Chief Planner John Martin. John has had a seminal role in the development of Irish planning law firstly with Dublin local authorities and in later years with the Department.

An Bord Pleanala was represented at the event by its Deputy Chairperson Karl Kent and Board Member Mary McMahon.

November Executive Meeting

On November 10th I chaired the monthly Executive Meeting of Engineers Ireland. We approved a draft Budget for 2012 to include the continuation of our TV Advertising Campaign on Chartered Engineers. This 2012 Budget still requires Council approval next Saturday.

We held an important discussion on how to react to the developing Building Control issue at Priory Hall which has been evacuated at Dublin City Council insistence due to an alleged 'fire risk'. We are taking expert advice in this regard and want to see whatever regulatory measures are necessary to ensure public safety is taken as a priority. It would appear that Architects and Surveyors are more in the firing line on this issue than are Engineers. Nevertheless we want to see the compulsory registration and regulation of Engineers also to ensure a high level of public confidence in our profession.

We finalised our future Membership Rules for Ordinary and Chartered Membership. This matter will also go to Council on Saturday. If agreed there, this will bring to a conclusion a discussion at Council concerning our Rules for Membership and our Routes to Titles which has lasted since 2005. It also enables us to finalise our new Byelaws currently in draft.

We also took a decision to hold the 2012 Annual Conference in Dublin, to coincide with the European Young Engineers (EYE) Society, who are coming to Dublin that year. This is fitting during the Presidency of Michael Phillips my successor and current Senior Vice President who is Dublin City Engineer and Director of Traffic.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Science & Industry - Working Together for Economic Recovery

On October 10th last, I attended a Business Breakfast by Science Foundation Ireland in Aviva Stadium where both Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton and Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, spoke.

It was attended by all of the leading research institutes in Ireland together with the Presidents of UCD and UCC Hugh Brady and Michael Murphy respectively.

Mary Colclough of CRANN TCD and PJ Rudden, President Engineers Ireland

Most prominent among the exhibitors were The Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) of Trinity College and CLARITY - Science Engineering and Technology (CSET) in UCD assisted by DCU and Tyndall Institute.

Nanoscience is the study of small scale matter. Nanotechnology looks to create future products which are lighter stronger cleaner and less expensive. You can thus see the value of these products. A 'nanometer' is one billionth of a metre smaller than the wavelength of visible light and a hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair!

Nanoscience views all matter from the same perspective regardless of whether it comprises the electrical circuits in a computer memory or the membrane that surrounds a human cell. The opportunities with nanoscience are immense touching all areas of human endeavour from advanced technologies and silicon chips to medical devices and new ways to diagnose and treat human disease. 

For instance CRANN is developing ways to manufacture computer chips using non-silicon materials. Also they are developing sensors for growth of micro-organisms such as MRSA in the nano-biology area. Nanoscience applies equally to all fields of science - physics chemistry and biology.

Minister Sherlock in his speech said that he was greatly encouraged by the deepening of the connectivity between Irish academia and industry as evidenced by the 44% increase in collaborations last year between SFI-funded researchers and industry. Praising the work of the Strategic Research Clusters he concluded 'we must continue the path that sees our ongoing research investment aligned to our economic needs, to satisfy the imperative to have research with consequences and growing levels of commercialisation and high value sustainable jobs'.

These encounters of mine with the Minister and the research community on behalf of Engineers Ireland greatly encourage me to continue my national tour of Research Institutes.

The President of UCC Michael Murphy invited me to Cork to view the important work currently being done by the Engineering Schools there including the Hydraulic and Marine Research Institute - an invitation I will take up in the months ahead and to visit the Tyndall Institute there also.

Institutes of Technology Lead the Way

Last week I was privileged to be asked to a Workshop with the Institutes of Technology (IoT’s) in DIT to give the Response from Engineers Ireland to the June 2011 Report on Engineering Graduates: Preparation and Progression.

The Workshop was opened by Tom Boland CEO of the Higher Education Authority. The Report was then presented by DIT Dean of Engineering Mike Murphy and Athlone Institute of Technology Head of Engineering Austin Hanley. I then concluded with a speech that represented the Engineers Ireland Response to the Report.

In summary the Report stated that graduates found Engineering to be a fulfilling career and that 80% of employers found that IoT level 8 graduates (with honours degree) were progressing at a similar rate to other graduates. However only 64% of respondents found IoT graduates to be adequately prepared in non technical skills such as communications and commercial approach.

Pictured at the launch of the Engineering Graduates: Preparation and Progression report were back row l-r: Denis McFadden, LyIT; Eugene Roe, DkIT; Dr Joe Harrington, CIT; John Murphy, IT Tralee; James Shivnan, report author. Front row l-r: Albert Byrne, WIT; Austin Hanley, AIT; Dr Mike Murphy, DIT; and Pat O'Donnell, IT Tallaght. Pic: Maxwells
I do not find these results surprising but am not aware of any other Irish engineering college(s) who have carried out such evidence based research on this issue and have published it - so well done Mike and Austin and the other IT’s nationally.
Tom Boland in his opening remarks set the Report in the context of the recently published (January 2011) "National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030" talked of the 50% increase in the numbers in Third Level Education from 1995 to 2011 and a further projected increase of 70% up to 2030. 'If we cannot spend our way out of this recession then we will be able to educate our way out of it' he said drawing attention to the increased educational focus on 'learning outcomes'.

In my Response and Closing Remarks I complemented the Institutes for their work and wondered where do we go from here. 'The two most important stakeholders in our Third Level sector - graduates and employers - have spoken and we must listen. Their voices in this report are clear enough' I stated.

I called for greater emphasis on the 4Cs which the better employers are seeking from graduates across the globe - critical thinking, creativity/innovation, collaborative/team building and communications. 'It is also fortuitous for third level that it was the engineering sector who led this research for it is engineering that is leading the recovery of the Irish economy in terms of design manufacture and export of pharma, biomedical and ICT products and services' I remarked.

I reminded the audience of the important role that Engineers Ireland are playing through the STEPS programme at Primary and Second Level and Innovative Student Engineer of the Year at Third Level in addition to the Maths Grinds for both Leaving and Junior Cert levels.

Finally I played the new Engineers Ireland TV advert to show what role Engineers play in Irish society - 'bring dreams to life for me and you'

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

2011 Excellence Awards

Last Friday night was the second year of our new Excellence Awards night when we celebrate all that is exciting innovative and interesting in Irish engineering. This year's event was held in the Four Seasons Hotel Dublin.

Master of Ceremonies was again Mary Kennedy of RTE who is a consummate professional with a public audience and a delightful conversationalist privately.

There were 7 awards in total - Volunteer of the Year, News Story of the Year, Education Award of the Year, Technical Paper of the Year, Chartered Engineer of the Year, Environmental Project of the Year and Engineering Project of the Year.

Mary Kennedy RTE, Terry Nolan Managing Director Shell,
Matt Cotterell Head of School of Engineering at C.I.T.,
PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland
The story of the night was how shortlisted entries from the Cork Region ran away with 5 of the Awards led by the Mizen Head Footbridge which won two awards - Best Project of the Year and Best Technical Paper. The Project of the Year was a public vote and the news on the night was that it was a favourite project with the public by a large margin. The iconic new NUIG Engineering Building was in second place and the Peace Bridge in Derry in third place.

Mizen Head Footbridge

The News Story of the Year was won by the Irish Examiner for balanced reporting of Engineering Projects. This was well deserved when you consider how some of our more controversial engineering projects are reported by some sections of the media. I know of no instance where I could complain on the reporting balance by the Irish Examiner and that speaks myriads about their professionalism.

The Education Award went to Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and Chartered Engineer of the Year from a shortlist of 6 went to Louise Connolly of ESBI and native of Cork.

PJ Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Louise Connolly Chartered Engineer of the Year,
John Power Director General Engineers Ireland

Environmental Project of the Year went to Portlaoise Sewerage Scheme another very innovative project.  Volunteer of the Year went to Michael Loughnane of ESB for his unstinting service to Engineers Ireland over many years particularly on the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Committee which I had the honour to chair for two years as Vice President.

In my own opening address I recounted 'the many sights I had seen' by going around the country and at events in Clyde Road including the Innovative Student of the Year in June, my visit to the opening of the NUIG Engineering Building in Galway and the CPD Company of the Year awards in October. Indeed I had also attended the official opening in early August by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar of the Mizen Head Footbridge in August on the invitation of County Mayor Tim Lombard County Manager Martin Riordan and County Engineer Noel O'Keeffe. If you see the splendour of this bridge against the deep Atlantic from the local vantage points you will realise why it won the Project of the Year as it’s a truly incredible sight.

Obviously we can conclude that 'people love bridges' simply because they can see them above ground and consider them 'things of beauty'.

Equally beautiful in my view was the entry from Aerogen in Galway where a 'drug impregnated mist' was developed to give the necessary therapeutic administration of drugs to a premature baby in an incubator! This is real life saving biomedical engineering. In the words of Claire Lillis of Aerogen in our TV advert as she looked at the premature baby in the incubator 'This (engineering) was made for you and me'!

I ended by showing the new Engineers Ireland TV advert on Chartered Engineer  ..... 'Will You Come With Me ........ Making Dreams for You and Me' - starting with Jamie O'Meara BE an Agricultural Engineer and ending with Claire Lillis BE a Biomedical Engineer in Galway.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

DCU Conference on Linking Education and Enterprise

Last week I was kindly invited by DCU Vice President for Innovation Richard O'Kennedy to speak at their intervarsity Conference organised jointly with University of Massachusetts Lowell and Queens University College. The title of the conference was 'The University and Economic Recovery - The role of Technology Enterprise and Learning Approaches.

Professor O'Kennedy had attended my Presidential Address in September on behalf of DCU and requested that I repeat my theme 'Building a Sustainable Recovery' but amend to suit the conference agenda which I did.

On arrival I was greeted by Professor Brian McCraith DCU President who opened the conference and gave the keynote address. He was followed by Dr Ruth Freeman Director of Enterprise and International Affairs at Science Foundation Ireland http://www.sfi.ie/ and Dr Muiris O'Connor Head of Policy and Planning at the Higher Education Authority http://www.hea.ie/. SFI is the principal funding agency for third level research in Ireland mostly in Biotechnology, ICT and sustainable energy. HEA is the statutory planning body for higher education in Ireland. Both Muiris and Ruth outlined their recent and future policy and funding priorities for higher education in Ireland.

Brian MacCraith President DCU
Courtesy www.dcu.ie

Dr Ruth Freeman
Science Foundation Ireland
Courtesy http://www.sfi.ie/
Muiris O'Connor
Higher Education Authority
Courtesy http://www.hea.ie/
In my speech I outlined the results of the 2010 US Critical Skills Survey of employers seeking to grow their business. In their prospective employees they will be seeking the 4 Cs - Critical thinking, Communications ability, Collaboration/team building and Creativity/innovation. Indeed in his earlier remarks, the DCU President expressed similar views based on a DCU commissioned survey of employers. I pointed out that the current education system in Ireland has not traditionally recognised these skills but instead has been based on ‘rote learning’ and ‘single point assessment’ through end of term examinations to a significant degree. There is thus an urgent need to reconfigure our education system to address these skill deficits if we are to recover the economy. The teaching of Maths is a good example of this issue with the recent introduction of the Project Maths approach of “learning through understanding”.

Engineers are uniquely placed to assist in this reconfiguration as the 4 Cs are in fact the key competences also sought by Engineers Ireland to attain Chartered Engineer status for over 10 years now. That includes radically reconfiguring our approach to the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) subjects at second level especially mathematics which more than other subjects needs a new approach to curriculum, teaching method and assessment. In terms of the humanities and the need to increasingly export our knowledge services, we also need to invest in foreign languages both European and Asian in particular.

I instanced all of the educational initiatives which Engineers Ireland are now taking to assist the situation nationally in the STEM subjects including the STEPS programme at primary and secondary level, the Innovative Student of the Year at third level, the Maths Grinds on Saturday in Dublin which we hope to extend to other cities and the recently launched TV advert promoting Chartered Engineers - 'Will You Come With Me' (click here to view advert)

I was delighted to hear that my views on education policy were closely aligned with those of Brian McCraith DCU President and Muiris O'Connor of HEA in particular on the maths and many other issues including the need for better management of the transitions between primary, secondary and third level.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Can Engineers Save the Economy?

Last week I was kindly invited by the UCD Dean of Engineering Professor Gerry Byrne to a 'Celebration of UCD Engineering Past and Present' in the Clinton Auditorium in Belfield. I was joined by UCD President Hugh Brady and by both Vice Presidents - Des Fitzgerald VP Research and Peter Clinch VP Innovation all of whom I have met at previous engagements in UCD.

It was also the occasion of the presentation of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association (EGA) Distinguished Graduate Award 2011 to Professor David O'Reilly former Chairman and CEO of Chevron plc based in the US. Before the Award presentation Professor O'Reilly presented a lecture on 'Can Engineers Save the Economy?' David O’Reilly graduated in Chemical Engineering in UCD in 1968 and went on to head up Chevron’s worldwide organisation with 58,000 employees and annual turnover of $200 billion.

In an inspiring address Prof O'Reilly pointed out the contribution that engineers had in building the Irish economy in terms of development of hydropower, energy water and transport infrastructure and the smart economy. He urged engineers to get out of their comfort zone and enter management and politics if we are to effect change in society.

He acknowledged though that this was not happening sufficiently in the US either so engineer reluctance to engage actively in community and political life was not just an Irish problem. He also urged engineers to keep their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and life long learning up to date.

David was a worthy winner of the 2011 EGA Distinguished Graduate Award. The UCD President gave the closing address and presented Prof O'Reilly a metal bound presentation copy of the book 'Building of the State'. This is the fabulous book on the 100 year history of Government Buildings Merrion Street launched by the Taoiseach in early July (see my blog of 8th July 2011).

Michael Loughnane EGA President, Professor Hugh Brady UCD President, Professor David O'Reilly 2011 EGA Distinguished Graduate and Professor Gerry Byrne UCD Dean of Engineering.

Professor Gerry Byrne Dean of Engineering and Principal of the School of Engineering and Architecture in his opening remarks outlined some very welcome changes in the further restructuring of the UCD School of Engineering and Architecture - the reinclusion of the Dept of Food Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering into the School of Engineering taking it back from the School of Agriculture, the inclusion of Materials and Bioengineering in the Dept of Mechanical Engineering, the inclusion for the first time of Communications in the Dept of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering and the inclusion for the first time of Environmental Engineering in the new Dept of Civil Structural and Environmental Engineering. I have no doubt that each of these reconfigurations will allow the new UCD School of Engineering to continue to prosper and reach its full potential in the years ahead. As my own third level Alma Mater, I wish UCD every success.