Introducing ChemEng Evolution

Around two years ago I was honoured to receive an invitation to Chair the Institution of Chemical Engineers Centenary celebrations.  It seemed like a good idea, and I duly accepted the task, but it took a lot of time. Below is my summary of this great project.

Setting our Expectations and Audience - ChemEng Evolution

Members kindly put forward a range of ideas as to how we should/could celebrate this once in a century occasion.  After significant consultation with a wide range of people, three common expectations surfaced. I am pleased to say the three have underpinned our efforts.

  1. Raise public awareness of the value of chemical engineering in helping to solve societies greatest challenges in the past, present, and future.
  2. Excite the next generation of engineers to help ensure we can attract well-equipped, diverse, people to continue the growth of our rapidly evolving profession.
  3. Seek to describe what the role of the Chemical Engineer could be in helping to solve society’s greatest, future, challenges.

Embedding the above expectations, we are targeting our ChemEng Evolution outreach to the following

  • Chemical engineers and those that know the term chemical engineering, this could include: ​
    • Curious adults with an interest and a willingness to engage​
    • Younger people who aspiring to become engineers. ​
    • Members of the public who have a passing interest in engineering. 

In the broadest sense this outreach allows ChemEng Evolution to reach out and engage with a wide section of society.

Building on an Existing Foundation

Facing the challenge of organizing a 100 Year celebration that also explores how the next say 80 years could pan out, most engineers would start with a simple organizing question: how do we plan this?  

Every plan requires a foundation, and the foundation of the ChemEng Evolution Project lies in the words gifted to us through the work of those members who have collectively contributed to both the drafting and updating of The Institution's Objects. 

These are very wise words and have served to guide and direct ChemEng Evolution.

ChemEng Evolution – Definition

ChemEng Evolution identifies the contribution Chemical Engineers have delivered to benefit the community-at-large against two organising timeframes - Past and Present.

ChemEng Evolution explores the future challenges Chemical Engineers may face in delivering benefits to the community-at-large up to ~2100. Acknowledging that society expectations are being shaped by a range of rapidly emerging challenges, i.e., mitigating climate change, delivering sustainable development, and enabling a circular economy.

Led by Members, supporting Members and serving society

It would be remiss of me if I did not highlight a simple, but very important fact: IChemE volunteers did this work. 

IChemE volunteers are, and remain, the driving force behind this unique project.

Over the life of the ChemEng Evolution Project an active global community of around 70 volunteers from all grades and sectors drove the work and took accountability for the success of the effort. The global pandemic unavoidably impacted project scope, but the volunteer community worked around this challenge by pushing forward using modern communications system. 

The Chairs' Committee comprising myself, Geoff Maitland, Chris Hamiln and Nigel Hirst coordinated ChemEng Evolution project, however, the hard work was carried out by an army of member volunteers. The volunteers are the ones that deserve the thanks of all members for their amazing efforts, special recognition must be given to the expert support provided by Jon Prichard and his dedicated IChemE professional staff.

On January 1st, 2022, a bespoke ChemEng Evolution website will go live, this platform is built from content generated by our volunteers, it contains a range of informative and inspirational stories. During the centenary year this content will be augmented by a range of events, webinars and informative video presentations that will include Member Groups and Special Interest Groups (SIG's).

New People Will Carry the Torch – Onwards to 2122

A centenary celebration provides an opportunity for reflection at a moment in time. 

In 2122 a bicentennial celebration team will develop a range of new reflections at a different moment in time. 

They will reflect upon on how IChemE has supported generations of increasingly diverse Chemical Engineers through the promotion of research, championing safety, delivering effective training, and promoting continually evolving qualifications; all against the backdrop of increasing community-at-large demands for planet preserving Sustainable Development.

What will IChemE 2122 look like and what will Chemical Engineers at that time see and experience?  It's best that we leave this to the ones that come after us.

We are a diverse profession, and we have much to be proud of. We have much more to do.

I invite you to celebrate our (your) Centenary year.


Postscript – Change in the Institution Objects July 2021 

In the section, “Building on an Existing Foundation”, I illustrated the Institution’s Objects, which define the Institution’s purpose and mission. As quoted, these are the Objects that were used to shape and drive the ChemEng Evolution project.

However, in July 2021 our Objects were updated to reflect the changing needs of society. Thus, from around August 2021, a refreshed set of “Obligations and Contributions” frame the purpose and mission of our Institution.

By August 2021, the building of content and the drive towards the finalisation of the web-based platform was essentially “locked and loaded”.

For clarity I invite you to read through the July 2021 objects, at first glance they may appear to read the same as those previously contained with the Royal Charter, but with subtle changes of wording, they signal our commitment towards sustainability, broaden our obligations to encompass the Global Community and expand the time-frame from now and into the future. I applaud this change and hope you do as well!