Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cloud Computing at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC)

Yesterday I visited the Green Digital Ideas Generation Workshop at the National Digital Research Centre beside the Guinness Storehouse.

Pictured at NDRC Workshop Fiona Hyland Marketing Manager, John Geoghegan Senior Commercial Associate, P J Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Dr Teresa Dillon Event Manager and Dr Amy Neale Programme Manager

NDRC ( is an independent not for profit enterprise dedicated to accelerating ICT research 'from idea to income'. It operates with the support of the Dept of Communications Energy and Natural Resources.

The collaborative approach with technology and business innovators drives greater collective success while cultivating attitudes towards invention and investment. Its founding members are DCU (, NCAD (, IADT (, TCD ( and UCD (

NDRC analyses and assesses new and emerging technologies and market opportunities within the economy's most important sectors. The Workshop consisted of a series of innovative presentations showing how the digital world can add value to smarter Energy Generation and Distribution, Public Transport, Water Supply, Waste Management and Green Buildings.

There was much comment on how Cloud Computing can help to service and grow Ireland's economy. Cloud computing is at an early stage of development. It is essentially a model that delivers on-demand access to a pool of computing resources. These can include all aspects of an IT infrastructure such as networks, servers, storage, applications and services. There are several advantages to the use of Cloud Computing not least an overall cost saving from efficiency and increased security.

There is no doubt that NDRC provides  an essential research and early start up service to many SMEs and new entrants to the digital world. This was amply demonstrated yesterday and our thanks to John Geoghegan, Teresa Dillon, Amy Neale and Fiona Hyland all of NDRC for hosting a most interesting and rewarding day.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

June Council Meeting

We had our first Council Meeting of the new year on Saturday morning last.

The two main events were Cooptions to Council and Election of 2011 - 2012 Executive Board. We coopted four new Members to Council - Justine Butler Chemical Engineer, Victoria Chadwick Safety Engineer, Donal Rigney Civil Engineer and Marguerite Sayers Electrical Engineer. Justine Butler is the Chairperson of our Young Engineers Society this year and the first YES representative to be elected to Council. I welcome her as the voice of the Young Engineers on Council in the year ahead. Also on the Council are the representatives of each of our Regions, and our Divisions (Civil, Mechanical, Biomedical, ICT etc) together with elected Chartered, Ordinary and Associate Members - a total Council of 44 people who together decide on the Strategic Policy of Engineers Ireland. The Council normally meets in June, September, November, January and April each year.

We also elected 10 members to the Executive Board, 5 from Council and another 5 who have previously served including the Chairman of our Finance Committee Murt Coleman and the Chairman of the Membership and Qualifications Board Tom Cleary. The Executive Board meets monthly and manages Engineers Ireland through the Director General and his staff at Clyde Road HQ.

Together with the two Vice Presidents Michael Phillips and John O'Dea and Past President Martin Lowery, I very much look forward as President to working with the Council, the Executive and the Director General John Power in the year ahead.

Monday, 27 June 2011

STEM Conference in Cork

I was delighted to attend my first meeting outside of Dublin since becoming President and to be in Cork on Thursday last for the STEM Conference. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics - all essential subjects required at some point to be a successful engineer. The conference was a great success jointly organised between Engineers Ireland and Discover Science and Engineering programme within Forfas ( There was even an unannounced impromptu visit by our new Minister for Innovation, Sean Sherlock, also a Cork TD. He was very upbeat, informed and supportive of the conference in his remarks.
Margie McCarthy Membership Director Engineers Ireland, Dr Jim Robinson Cork Region Chair Engineers Ireland, P J Rudden President Engineers Ireland, Peter Brabazon Director Discover Science and Engineering and Katharine Jansen CSR Manager Abbott Ireland

The presentations and debate rightly focused on the challenge to engage with and to inspire young Second Level students towards the STEM careers in Science and Engineering.

I was met at the event in River Lee Hotel by the Cork Region Chairman Dr Jim Robinson, our Director of Membership Margie McCarthy, Peter Brabazon Director of Discover Science and Engineering, Paul Sheridan our Education Officer and Caitriona Geraghty STEPS Manager ( and who was Conference Organiser.

What impressed me most about the conference was the tremendous collaborative approach between Industry and Education in the Cork Region particularly at Third Level with the Tyndall Institute, UCC, CIT supported by Cork City Council's Lifetime Lab and Blackrock Castle Observatory and many others.

Chris Enright R&D Manager with Hewlett Packard ( pointed out that the speed of technological development is such that we are now teaching and training skills for technologies which havnt yet been invented for future careers which currently don't exist!

Andre Van Aperen of Shell ( outlined many interesting features of the Dutch Jet-Net system for attraction of students towards the STEM like a National Teachers Day and National Girls Day to raise awareness with selected cohorts of people.

Katharine Jensen of Abbott ( showed how a proactive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach at industry level can greatly inspire students towards careers in Science and Engineering.

Michelle Starr of the UL National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning ( told the conference the startling facts that Science was not a compulsory subject at Junior Certificate. She also described the innovative Mallow Schools Project in maths and science funded by local businesses.

Bernard Kirk of Galway Education Centre told us the incredible fact that the syllabus for the subject Engineering at Leaving Cert level had not been revised in 30 years! Really my mind boggles at this! How the world and our engineering world has changed in the past 30 years!

Aoife O'Donoghue outlined the fascinating work at the Tyndall Institute ( where the National Microelectronics Research Institute is hosted and recently visited by Queen Elizabeth. She also described the impressive extent of her Outreach Programme within Science and Engineering education.

It was a tremendously interesting visit to Cork thanks to the organising skills of Caitriona and Kate in Engineers Ireland greatly supported by Peter and his team in Discover Science and Engineering.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Dublin shortlisted for World Design Capital 2014

Yesterday we got the exciting news that Dublin has made the shortlist of 3 cities, one of whom will be named World Design Capital 2014 later this year. The other two cities shortlisted are Cape Town and Bilbao.

At the launch in City Hall by Dublin City Council of World Design Capital bid 'Pivot Dublin' with John Tierney Dublin City Manager and Paul Keogh President of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland
The bid document titled 'Pivot Dublin - Turn design inside out' was a truly inspirational submission to the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) based in Montreal. Engineers Ireland ( together with the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland ( are listed as supporting Design Organisations.

The bid document makes bold statements of current and future ambitions for our capital city.
'Dublin is mountains and sea, swerve of shore and bend of bay. Dublin has history, it has deep roots, constantly refreshed...Its about the value of difference. Its about everything that's possible when people, relationships, creativity and culture collide'.

In Dublin we can see the new urban design freshness in the Samuel Beckett Bridge ( in engineering terms and the National Convention Centre adjacent to the Bridge in architectural terms. The Bridge won last year's Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards and the National Convention Centre has won many.

The design award is intended to cause the winning city to redesign itself and thus improve social, cultural and economic life. After the City of Turin won the award in 2008 it was estimated that the value of the award to the city exceeded the economic effect of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

We look forward to the next round of the competition and assisting the endeavour wherever we can.

Innovative Student Engineer Awards

Biomedical engineering is one of the growth areas of our profession in Ireland and indeed a major sector now driving national recovery and job creation. The National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES) at NUIG ( has an international reputation developing innovative diagnostic and therapeutic solutions to the healthcare challenges of our day.

I was pleased to present the Innovative Student Engineers Awards last Monday together with our sponsors SIEMENS ( Fiona Griffin a native of Listowel Co Kerry studying at NUIG Biomedical Engineering School won the Innovative Student Engineer Award for level 8 students and the level 7 award went to Danny Allen, Patrick Byrnes and Richard Childs of Cork IT ( also for a biomedical project.
Innovative Student Engineer of the Year 2011 Fiona Griffin from NUI Galway pictured with Michael O'Connor from Siemens and P J Rudden, President of Engineers Ireland
This was the 15th year of the awards which have been generously sponsored by SIEMENS for the last 13 years and represented by Michael O'Connor Head of Corporate Communications and Marketing.

The shortlisted entries in both level catagories were all fascinating and thus I didn't envy the task of the three Judges all of whom were Chartered Engineers led by Wilf Higgins formerly of the Health Services Executive assisted by Dermot O'Dwyer Lecturer in TCD Engineering School and Niall English MD of Futura Design.

Fiona's project which was really amazing was the development of a transcatheter valve as a stent into the mitral value which regulates blood flow from the auricle to the ventricle of the heart. The catheter is inserted into the artery through an incision in the upper leg and threaded through the artery to the heart.

This procedure which takes about 1 week recovery period in hospital replaces an open heart surgery procedure with greatly increased risk of infection, the temporary cutting of the rib cage and some 4 to 6 months recovery period.
The Cork Institute of Technology project was similarly in the biomedical area on the subject of the 'Automation of Prosthetic Shoulder Stem Blasting' which they pioneered with biomedical firm Croom Precision Medical.

Other shortlisted projects included evaluation of a 6 stroke engine, office building energy consumption, design of post tensioned beams, pyrites in concrete and microgeneration - all of which are very topical submitted by Cork IT, DIT, Athlone IT, NUIG and Sligo IT.

Speaking at the presentation of the awards, I emphasised the importance of the modern engineer having a combination of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communications skills. I encouraged the students to further look at the commercial viability of their projects.

All in all a very exciting day for the students, their parents and teachers all of whom deserve great credit. Also deserving of great praise is Margie McCarthy Director of Membership together with Shirley McDonald and Julie Goggins who conducted the day with great assurance and maximum comfort to the students.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

NAMA and the Planning System

Last night there was a most interesting discussion at the DIT Spatial Planning Graduate Network Annual Forum 2011 ( to which I was invited. The topic was Perspectives on NAMA and the Planning System. This forum consists mostly of DIT planning graduates concerned with planning and sustainable development.

There were interesting perspectives on the possible conflict between the need for long term sustainable development versus the operations of NAMA as an asset disposal agency seeking highest economic value. I can see both points of view. NAMA has a legal obligation to protect the taxpayer but there was a genuine concern among the professional planners present that 'good long term sustainable planning' needed to be the driving force behind recovery of the distressed assets or sites in question. There was much mention of 'ghost housing estates' which were also the result of 'developer led' policies as opposed to 'plan led' policies.

There appeared to a general consensus at the Forum that it was not too late to seek a reconfiguration of NAMA operations to have greater regard to the planning system. NAMA is two years in existence but has yet to appointed a professional planner but we understand that there are now plans to do so.

As an attempt to clarify the NAMA approach to the spatial planning process I suggested that the professional bodies incl Engineers Ireland together with the architects, planners, landscape architects and surveyors might formulate a Professional Body Submission to the NAMA Planning Advisory Committee. This was generally agreed to be a positive outcome to the discussion. There was also a suggestion that the Urban Forum representing all of the relevant professional bodies might be a suitable vehicle for the submission to NAMA.

Securing Our Energy

On Monday I was invited by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) ( to a Seminar on Energy Security & Competitiveness in a Rapidly Changing World in the National Gallery of Ireland. It was chaired by Professor Owen Lewis CEO of SEAI and opened by Minister Pat Rabbitt Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources.

Much of what was said was thought provoking. It came across most powerfully that we are seriously at risk in terms of our security of energy supply. Our basket of sources in Ireland need to be as diversified and integrated as possible. We are still highly at risk from increasing world oil prices in a volatile political world.

Our energy security metrics illustrated by Katrina Polaski of SEAI are stark in terms of our dependence on imports. We need more sources and more means of storing our energy. The competitiveness of our energy supply is also a critical issue as is our clear need to respond to the challenges of climate change.

In terms of gas supply which fuels most of our power plants currently, Corrib was the only new well discovered in 35 years and it is taking 17 years to develop! In that 35 years we had 150 exploration wells and only one discovery at Corrib in 1996. We now have 15 licence applications for the next round of exploration.

Meanwhile we have to accelerate the development of our renewable resources onshore and offshore having regard to the economics involved and the need to move to a lower carbon future.

We need to manage our risks going forward with regard to maximising our Energy Resources to help drive national recovery. In his concluding remarks SEAI Chairman Brendan Halligan remarked on growing world energy demand particularly in the emerging countries. China'a economy doubles in size every 7 years. In terms of the overall theme of the seminar he called for a new Government White Paper on Energy and Enterprise. That's a call I would support.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Awards for Construction Management Excellence

Monday June 13 2011

On Friday night I was a guest at the Annual Construction Manager of the Year Awards hosted by The Chartered Institute of Building in Dublin. CIOB was founded in 1834 and have over 47,000 members in 100 countries throughout the world.

The shortlisted finalists were all young professionals who had excelled in the building of some of Dublin's iconic new landmarks - The National Convention Centre, The Criminal Courts of Justice and Aviva Stadium built by contractors/ project managers CPM, Hegarty and Sisk respectively. These outstanding structures will forever be remembered as the last great building investments in the city before the construction and property crisis hit us in the late Aughties.

The Gold Medal for Construction Manager of the Year went to Donal McCarthy of CPM who project managed The National Convention Centre in Dublin. The Green Building Award went to Paul Stewart of JSL Group Ltd of Galway for the Roscommon Decentralised Government Offices.

The National Convention Centre beside the equally iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge over the River Liffey by Dublin City Council represent a new urban vista of which this generation of design professionals can be truly proud.

They are also very solid reminders that Dublin has a new freshness in Urban Design that should help its pitch led by City Architect Ali Grehan to become World Design Capital 2014. The Samuel Beckett Bridge led by City Engineer Michael Phillips won the Project Excellence Award from Engineers Ireland in 2010. Michael is also our Senior Vice President this year.

Not surprisingly the Samuel Beckett Bridge is increasingly used pictorially and graphically to symbolise and promote the modern Dublin in tourism and business advertising.

There were many other Construction Managers honoured for buildings all over Ireland - The O2 Dublin, McClay Library Queens Belfast, Iontas NUI Maynooth, Internal Street GMIT, Royal Hibernian Academy Dublin, St Patricks Hospital Cork, North South Ministerial Offices Armagh and Trauma and Orthopedic Theatres at Craigavon Hospital - an excellent North-South and regional spread of winners.

Sadly many of the country's once largest builders like McNamara and Pierse and who featured highly in the awards of previous years are no longer with us - further signs of the challenge we all now face to rebuild the construction industry in the years ahead. I'm confident though that we can engineer our way out of this recession through a combination of increasing competitiveness, innovation into new skill sets and services, common sense and hard work.

Also present as guests at the event were the President of the Construction Industry Federation Matt Gallagher, President of the Society of Chartered Surveyors John Curtin and the Dean of Engineering at DIT Dr Mike Murphy.

This event also reminded me that the new Built Environment in our cities - both townscape and landscape - will stand us well for generations and hopefully even centuries to come. It will endure as part of the future Ireland. No matter how dark the days may now seem for the construction industry, a new dawn will surely come later this decade and we all hope a great deal sooner. Then we will start to  rebuild on the truly great traditions which we are now honouring at events like these.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Xperience at the Helix

Thursday June 9th 2011

'Today I was honoured to perform the official opening of the Xperience Engineering National Finals 2011 at The Helix in DCU.

This is an annual event in The Helix hosted by Engineers Ireland to promote school projects based on the application of Science and Mathematics at Primary School level around Ireland. There were 40 shortlisted finalists from as far away as Cork, Kerry and Donegal together with their proud parents and teachers.

In my opening speech I remarked on the start of the Junior and Leaving Certificate exams this week and how committed Engineers Ireland are to supporting Education in all three sectors in Ireland but especially at Primary and Second Level. We are very actively supporting the new Project Maths curriculum at Second Level in particular and taking an interest in the new Junior Cycle curriculum and new proposed new approach to Science learning at second level from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (

This year's theme in the Xperience competition was 'Engineering a cleaner world'. There some highly impressive projects like the Flooding Study of Bandon Co. Cork to various topics like water and wastewater treatment, suspension bridges, wind farms, pumped storage electricity schemes and waste management proposals to reduce landfill.

I didn't envy the Judges their difficult task. The judges were engineers and scientists drawn from state organisations, from industry and consultancy.

The Junior Winner was Scoil Naomh Fionan, Nohoval, Co Cork. They examined 'greening' their local community in Nohoval by means of integration of local planning, transport and renewable energy projects.
The Senior Winner was Harold Boys School in Dalkey Co Dublin with a project on redevelopment of Dun Laoghaire Sea Baths. They had focused on the innovative possibilities of harvesting tidal energy, also creating seaweed baths as well as active consultation with the local community.

These two very worthy projects have the potential of improving local community infrastructure, job creation and environmental protection all at the same time.

From competitions like these, pupils get to realise that 'engineers make things happen' in everyday life. For example Engineers design the Water and Gas systems to the our towns and cities, our Roads Trains and Buses, making iPhones work, bringing Broadband to offices schools and homes.

We also make surgical operations in hospitals possible through our biomedical engineers who design equipment to monitor medical condition like heartbeat and blood flow and design medical devices like stents to bridge arteries to combat blood clotting.

It was great to see the sheer excitement in so many little eyes and faces as they explained their projects. They also answered the most searching questions to test their knowledge under time pressure.

I was proud today to be a member of Engineers Ireland ( All associated with this event deserve our praise and admiration especially our principal organisers Caitriona Geraghty and Kate Cannon.'