IET Sectors: developing partnerships with purpose.
The reach of the IET’s Sectors has been expanding this year as their teams continue to work on championing the professional interests of their members to governments and the wider public, reports Keri Allan.
Each of the five Sectors: Built Environment, Design and Production, Energy, Information and Communications, and Transport, has its own programme and priorities, and is enabling the IET to forge even closer links with academia, business and industry organisations. Early signs indicate that bringing together such a broad spectrum of interests is already paying dividends for many concerned.
The work of the IET Sectors is led by senior engineering volunteers, developing partnerships with purpose being a case in point. Sectors have also been active in generating and publishing volunteer-led thought leadership content and industry insights.
“This could take the form of collaborating with us to create a Sector insight, showcasing innovation through a Sector case study or promoting engineering or technological topics to local and technical IET communities,” highlights Stephen Scowcroft, IET Sectors and communities collaboration manager. “Generating content and engaging members and external partners is steadily improving the profile of Sectors.”
To keep members informed of the Sectors’ work, a new series of e-newsletters has been launched, focusing on the latest relevant news. These can be signed up to by simply visiting www.theiet.org/sectors and updating your interests on MyIET.
Sector pages are also now available on MyCommunity, encouraging members to join up to the Sectors of their choice and take part in debates and exchange knowledge online, link details are below:
• Built Environment: http://mycommunity.theiet.org/communities/home/405
• Design & Production: http://mycommunity.theiet.org/communities/home/387
• Energy: http://mycommunity.theiet.org/communities/home/396
• Information & Communications: http://mycommunity.theiet.org/communities/home/342
• Transport: http://mycommunity.theiet.org/communities/home/319
Member News caught up with the Sector chairs to discuss their thoughts on the latest issues facing engineering professionals and what they feel their Sector is doing to make a difference:
Currently a technical director in WSP UK Ltd’s Group Technical Centre, Simon Robinson’s working association with the built environment spans his career and has covered all aspects of building services construction and design.
Member News: With the Sectors, has the IET succeeded in creating a ‘home within a home’?
Robinson: We have come a long way since our creation. The previous structure within the IET did not include a specific focus on those members working within construction, and its support sectors, so in that sense, the IET has definitely succeeded in creating a home within a home.
That said, it is still early days and the term ‘built environment’ covers a wide area of interest. We are finding that members in specialist areas are coming together through IET communities to establish more specific sharing opportunities. At Sector executive level we are providing support to these communities to help them develop.
MN: What are the key areas of collaboration and partnerships that you’re focusing on?
Robinson: Collaboration with architects, surveyors, structural and civil engineers as well as liaison with local authorities and universities is key to offering our members working in this Sector the best experience that membership can bring. We have begun the process of building relationships with other interested institutions with a view to better understanding the challenges the future of engineering in the built environment could bring.
Rightly, the reduction of energy use, both during the construction phase and going forward, is a key driver for any project in the sector. Building information modelling (BIM) is central to developing ways of working which will improve construction efficiencies and allow better control of energy in use. We have set ourselves an objective of being at the forefront of BIM as it develops.
The energy used by electric lighting is a major part of that consumed in the built environment and we are building a relationship with the Society of Light and Lighting to explore areas of interest we can help each other with.
MN: What do you see as the future challenges for your Sector?
Robinson: Clearly, we need to build on the great start we have had and the enthusiasm of members who want to help the Sector develop. We cover such a wide area it is inevitable that some members would like to have more focus in a specific area of interest. We need to be mindful of that and where we can we will support and develop areas of interest or ‘homes within homes within homes’ if that best suits the needs of members. I would encourage any members who feel we need to focus on a specific area currently not covered to get into touch with us.
Morgan David, divisional director of R&D for Sony, is aiming for the Sector to develop important social and technological discussions that will change design and production for the better.
Member News: What is your Sector currently focusing on?
David: We have a Sector that is very broad; design and manufacturing is quite a difficult topic for individuals to engage with because few people see themselves as falling into one or other of these specifically, they’re interested in narrower topics.
So, rather than trying to create a Sector that is all things to all people, we’ve been working on developing topics that are intended to be really engaging both technically and from a wider social perspective. One topic is sustainable manufacturing, and specifically with relation to food production.
Sustainability is a really important topic, we need people to engage with the reality of what it means as it’s a very important area for our future from an environmental and commercial point of view.
We also like this topic because it stretches the boundaries of how people think about the IET. When you think of engineering and technology you might consider computers or missiles, food production might not be so obvious. So at the moment we’re just feeling our way as to how best to add value and create engagement.
MN: What are your ideas so far?
David: Effectively, I want to build something that has a narrative trajectory. Rather than just doing several interesting thought pieces and technical events and moving on, I want to let the topic develop over time, so interested parties have something to follow.
The important thing is to recognise that there are people working on similar topics and we don’t want to duplicate or compete with these. This is about finding out who we can collaborate with, where we can add value and then focusing on really getting the benefits from synergy, so that collaboration gives us a stronger and more authoritative voice.
MN: What other topics are you looking to start discussions on?
David: The other topic is design for independent living. A lot of people hear this and default into healthcare; chair and bath lifts etc., but this is a significantly different issue.
The problem comes from the way products are designed: rarely do we innovate with the intention of making sure the widest demographics and age ranges can use a product. The problem extends to younger and older people, the poor and those with disabilities.
Our mission is to try to educate the world of product engineers and designers about the need to consider the wider population. In doing so we’ll have massive benefits because it will make it much easier for people to remain independent for much longer, with more confidence.
I have this view that one should never try and boil the ocean and this could turn into such a problem. To me, success is simply to get the ball rolling, adding a respected voice from the IET, calling for changes to long-term values. It won’t happen overnight, but if you keep repeating the message often enough and explain it in a compelling way then you will make progress.
Executive director of the UK Energy Research Centre and IET past president, John Loughhead came onboard as interim Energy Sector chair. His goal is to establish an agreed programme of activities to take the Sector forward.
Member News: What do you feel your Sector has achieved so far, and what are your next steps?
Loughhead: We’ve been working with the relevant TPNs and associated policy panels to define the priority areas across the entire energy sector that should be of particular relevance to the IET. We’ve now launched a number of activities that relate to these, which will form the basis of the Sector’s activities over the next year.
We’re present at and are organising relevant conferences, have become a project dissemination partner for the UK Power Networks project, running events related to renewables within the grid and we’ve been talking with the Technology Strategy Board’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult on elements of technical work.
We’ve also developed an activity that we call the Power Networks Joint Vision, which is about looking at the system requirements for future power networks, and there have been some press releases issued on that.
The next steps are setting up participation in public activities or setting up our own activities related to these that we hope the members will be able to both engage in and learn from.
MN: How will members benefit?
Loughhead: The important thing is providing a non-partisan environment within which the real technical issues and challenges can be identified, discussed and options for those brought into the open, in a way that’s not subject to the pressures that people get in the commercial or political or policy world on some of these things.
We hope that these activities will prove highly relevant to what our members are doing, and that it will provide them with a fairly rich and informative forum or environment in which they can either contribute to the debate or become familiar with what the issues are and see how they relate to what they’re doing in their own work.
An independent telecommunications-photonics consultant, visitor at Southampton University and industry advisor, Will Stewart brings to the Sector a vast swathe of experience and industry contacts.
Member News: In your opinion, what has been the impact of the Sectors so far?
Stewart: The Sectors have provided a visible focus for members that reflects the IET’s concern over their particular interests. For an organisation such as the IET, that covers such a wide range of engineering, this is particularly important.
MN: What are the Sectors’ challenges, looking forward?
Stewart: Principally to appear as relevant and involving as possible. This is mainly, though not exclusively, about offering the right Web-based ‘home’ and services.
MN: What are the planned activities, engagement and actions looking like in the Information & Communications Sector for the remainder of 2013?
Stewart: All IET activities within the Sector’s area are ‘Sector’ activities – so this covers everything from the prestige lectures through to major international conferences like ECOC, which I co-chair. It also covers things like the chairmen’s blogs, of which I have started writing one, and much else besides. We’re also working with outside organisations such as Cambridge Wireless on joint events that are available to members.
MN: How have members been getting involved with the Sector and how have they benefited?
Stewart: Many volunteers have been supporting Sector activities and IET activities within each Sector. Of course the IET activities within the Information & Communications Sector are of great benefit to members and are very popular. For example, the recent prestige lecture on the Raspberry Pi project attracted over 70,000 views on IET.tv, as well as a large audience in the hall.
Peter Sheppard currently works for Bombardier Transportation UK and has been a safety engineer in the railway industry for over 30 years with national and international experience.
Member News: How do you feel your experience has added to the Sector?
Sheppard: I was first involved as a volunteer with the IET as a member of a power board. I was privileged to be involved in one of the early industry groups, which led onto the TPNs where I chaired the Railway Network. Whilst I am a ‘railwayman’ I have a large experience with IET communities and understand how they operate and what the key issues are.
I have a strong committee supporting me, which is drawn from various transport communities and also have great support from IET staff. I believe I can help in the Transport Sector by acting as a bridge between communities, facilitating joint knowledge gathering and sharing.
MN: What is the latest focus of your Sector?
Sheppard: For the last couple of years we have focused on electric vehicles and many events, papers and articles have been produced and shared between the Energy and Transport Sectors and relevant communities. In the background we are always looking at how can we make more out of what we have.
This year we are looking specifically at autonomous vehicles in all areas of transport and how they may develop. Of course, we also have HS2, which is progressing, and we are involved with the main contractors as a ‘critical friend’.
The Sector is also focusing on the issues and challenges around security and risk in transport and is developing a publication with technical papers and case studies to highlight the need for cross-modes technology and knowledge transfer.
MN: How have you seen members benefiting from your Sector?
Sheppard: It’s still early days and I believe we are still several years away from the members seeing and understanding the full benefits of what we can offer.
However, to use an overworked phrase, we are a ‘one-stop shop’ for all issues transport. I hope members have been able to use the Transport Sector Web area to find out about more than just their specific area and to learn and share with other members in other Sectors. We look for cross-cutting themes and try and stimulate discussion amongst members to help them appreciate how other engineers in others disciplines think and work.
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