John Keats may have this as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfullness” but it is also the season of business planning as the employees at Birdcage Walk held their final workshop this year to gather ideas for the 2019 plan. Employees have to present their ideas to the Trustees on 26 September to get the Board’s views as to which should be worked up further into the final, costed, plan which will be approved by Trustees on 5 December.
The challenge this year is to improve the Institution’s financial performance by around £300k over 2018, in order to be able to achieve the sustainable surplus targeted for 2019. Despite this restriction there were some great ideas on events, on use of digital technologies and, of course, on engaging members which are aimed to improve the experience of belonging to our Institution. Whilst decisions are up to the Trustees, one way we can show this member focus will be to set ourselves the target of being the number one engineering Institution for member satisfaction and hence retention of membership in 2019. Please keep an eye out for what the Trustees decide.
In the meantime, of course, the 2018 work of our Institution continues. It was great to be able to support a new member event in the UK Eastern Region this week. Welcoming eight new members, it was heartwarming to see family and friends come along to share in their achievements. It gave the event a real focus on the “engineer in society” rather than just an engineer to engineer interaction.
Much as we may hate to admit it, we need accountants, lawyers and even politicians to work with us and understand our potential contribution if we are to be successful. Right back to our founding fathers in 1847, we can recognise their need to engage other influencers if we are to have influence ourselves. The presentation by an ex-pilot of Concorde – not an engineer – gave exactly the right context to what was a great event at the museum in Duxford. Apologies of course for not mentioning any of the other one thousand or more events organised each year by our active members worldwide, but please be assured that we realise they are the real face of our Institution, not anything we might be saying or doing here in London.
However, one new level of influence that has come from the Uff Review and its desire to see a more unified engineering profession is the creation of an Engineering Policy Centre based at the Royal Academy of Engineering. Starting in January 2018, under Dr Nick Starkey, it looks to engage all of the 36 Institutions registered with the Engineering Council as well as other engineering think tanks to provide evidence to the UK Government. The first series of topics have just been issued and we are sure that Nick and his team will welcome any advice that you are willing and able to share. They are looking at the “safety and ethics of machines and autonomous systems”, the creation of “sustainable living spaces”, and something called “holistic food policy” which seems to be building on something our own Institution highlighted some years back now of the tremendous waste in the current food supply system worldwide. Overall, as engineers we must clearly do what we can to ensure we retain the logical high ground of evidence based policy rather than the unfortunate alternate of what becomes policy led evidence.
Finally, we are hoping that next week we can feature a guest contribution from our President. He will have been in post for six weeks by then and, as you will see, has been making good progress in setting up the two key reviews we have planned - finance and governance - as well as rebuilding the Trustee Board following the changes in the Summer. For those of you not quite so close to us in Birdcage Walk, it is worth saying just how busy this has made him. It has been virtually a full time role and promises to continue to be so for some months yet. It is a further great reminder of the huge and unpaid effort made by many active members which we must never lose sight of.
Interim Chief Executive