Institution news

'Inside Track' - latest update from our President

Terry Spall, President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Welcome to 2021!
Welcome to 2021!

Welcome to the latest edition of "Inside Track", providing regular updates on the Institution's Trustee Board activities.

Welcome to this New Year edition of Inside Track.  It is largely a repeat of the one that went out a day or two before Christmas but many people said they did not see that one.  It is quite long due to the high volume of Trustee Board activity which we would like to share with you, but we hope that you find it useful.  Please ‘click’ at the end if you would like to receive future editions directly by email.

We get lots of encouraging feedback on 'Inside Track', suggesting it is a valued communication, but it is only one of many communication channels we use. I hope those of you who use social media, also follow the IMechE, and enjoy the many news items, videos and podcasts that we produce. I know social media is not for everyone, but it can be a quick and effective media and our engagement continues to grow.

I am sure no one will disagree that 2020 was a tough year because of the pandemic but for the Institution it has also aligned with a transitional year as we radically change our governance and set a new course for the IMechE. I hope from your own perspective, you are happy with the changes you have seen thus far and feel we are making positive progress. Next year will see many other exciting changes take effect; I will be working tirelessly with the team to ensure that by the end of my presidential term, I leave the Institution in good shape for the future.

Through November, we were heavily engaged in celebrating success through our various award programmes. It is, in many ways, the highlight of the Institution year and is the culmination of many months of activity by the awards committees and our various regional committees around the world. This year has been no exception with a full programme of awards including the Whitworth Scholarships and the Speak Out for Engineering (SOfE) finals, the only difference being these prestigious awards ceremonies have been replaced by virtual ones. It might sound like a poor substitute, especially for those that would have been competing in the global finals of SOfE in Abu Dhabi. You might have expected there would have been an air of disappointment, but the professionalism and positivity of the Young Members involved was a great testament to them. We saw the eight finalists battle it out to secure the coveted SOfE prize with some really high-quality presentations.

 President Terry Spall and Fahim Islam Anik, SOfE Champion 2020

Overall winner, Fahim Islam Anik from Bangladesh delivered, with some pizzazz, a very impressive presentation on the design and development of a smart stick for the blind and partially-sighted.

Chris Rea Honorary Fellow

Congratulations also go to Chris Rea of Aesseal, who Colin Brown and I met just before the current lockdown to celebrate his inauguration into the very exclusive office of Honorary Fellowship of the Institution and to witness him signing the vellum pages of the historic Honorary Fellows register.

IMechE Honorary Fellows Roll

October also saw the EngRec 2020 Virtual Global Recruitment Fair. This was a huge success, attracting over 3000 registrations from 78 countries and an impressive line up of exhibitors and sponsors. Formula Student also fired up with their Learn to Win event, again held fully virtually and attracting the highest ever attendance with over 670 delegates from 15 countries. It is fantastic to see our Events Team getting to grips with how to successfully deliver virtual platform events; I’m sure I speak for all of us in thanking them for their efforts to adapt so quickly and deliver such great outcomes for the Institution.

Before I get into the detail of this report, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year and every success in 2021. I hope the COVID situation does improve rapidly as the vaccination programme progresses and we can get back to some semblance of normality and I have the chance to meet some of you before my term of office comes to an end. Thank you for your continuing support for our Institution.

This month I am reporting on the December Trustee Board meeting. The following captures some of the key discussion items and decisions taken during the Trustee Board and other news which I felt would be of interest to you all.

2020 year end financial position and 2021 budget

Our 2020 year end forecast shows a significant improvement compared to early forecasts with the Institution predicted to end up making a small overall surplus when the year end position is finalised this month. Unavoidable losses due to COVID in the trading subsidiaries have been absorbed by the cash surplus that existed from their trading in previous years. The Trustee Board approved the 2021 budget, which prudently reflects the reality of another COVID-impacted year ahead. We are anticipating the situation improving as vaccination is rolled out but have taken a conservative view of revenues and trimmed back costs to ensure we have some resilience to deal with further adverse circumstances. This has been done in a manner that will hopefully have least impact on delivery against our charitable objectives.

Nominations Committee (NomCo)

The new Nominations Committee team has now been finalised; we had over 40 applications for the four places on this committee. Under the chairmanship of Isobel Pollock-Hulf it has hit the ground running with a first assignment of recruiting for our new Strategy Committee.

Strategy Committee (StratCom)

NomCo have been running a campaign to find suitably experienced members to join our new Strategy Committee. We have six places available and have received 125 applications, which is really great. I’d like to thank everyone who has applied for doing so, although we will clearly have to disappoint quite a number of people, it is really pleasing to see such a positive response. The successful candidates will be announced mid-January.

HQ Building

Our iconic HQ building, although well maintained, is facing some major refurbishment which will need to be addressed in the near future. The situation is not unlike that faced by the IET and ICE over recent years.

A Real Estate Strategy Group (RESG) was set up last year, chaired by Helena Rivers, who many of you will know is a Trustee with a wealth of knowledge and experience in real estate. The RESG has been considering our future needs from the building, including the impact of COVID and undertaking analysis to work out a new set of requirements. They have also been quantifying the scope of the works needed, which includes all of the building services, the roof and the façade. Initial estimates suggest the cost will be in the region of £15M. RESG presented a range of options to the Trustee Board on how we could approach the challenge; these are now being developed further.

It is our intention to find a solution that allows us to invest in the building as our HQ for future generations. We hope to be able to present a fully evaluated and viable solution for consideration by our members early next year. In the interim we are undertaking invasive surveys to establish the underlying condition of the building more accurately.

Disciplinary Regulations

As part of the governance review process a substantial review of our disciplinary regulations has been carried out. This has involved considering processes used by other institutions and also taking advice and guidance from some leading experts in this area. John Wood and Richard Sibbick have led this process and produced a completely new set of disciplinary regulations, which define an approach compliant with applicable standards of justice and now include a triage stage with a qualified assessor. These were presented to the Trustees and secured their approval. They will now go through final legal checks before going live at the earliest opportunity. They will also be accompanied by a new Code of Conduct, which has also been updated and made easier to use with explanatory notes. Further communications will follow when the new regulations are rolled out.

Election voting project

Council member Bowman Bradley provided an interim report on this project, which is focused on trying to understand the drop we experienced in voter returns this year. The final report on this is due early next year and we can take a view at that stage whether what we saw was likely a COVID impact, due to the bias towards electronic voting or if there are other factors and what actions we can take.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy

The Trustee Board was presented with a new D&I strategy proposal. This has been developed by our D&I Committee, chaired by Isobel Pollock-Hulf and has been informed by external experts and canvassed opinion from focus groups formed from across the Institution. It is such an important issue; the new strategy maps out very clearly the steps we need to take make a real difference and set an exemplar standard for our profession. It will also include bespoke training for members and staff.

This work sits very well alongside our ‘Year of Values’ objective on our values and behaviours. It is so important that we are exemplars of a diverse and inclusive organisation and not just paying it lip service. If we are truly to be ‘One inclusive team that trusts and respects each other’ then we need to walk and talk best practice, not just have a policy about it. This is in addition to our disciplinary work above and may well need a joint member and staff panel to oversee what actually happens day to day. We have already started engaging with Council and members more widely through our values and behaviours workshops to get your views on this. The Board approved the D&I strategy. If you’d like to see the strategy a summary version will be available on the D&I webpages of the main IMechE website in January.

Japan Cluster Strategy/Business Plan

One of my presidential themes is to explore the international potential of the Institution and the proposition needed to realise that potential. I have been working for a number of months now with a small team to look closely at Japan. We have a small cluster of about 30 members, who have been trying to develop and raise the profile of IMechE in Japan. Working with the cluster leaders, Michael Ebina and Rob Domloge, we have now developed a five-year business plan to enable that team to grow IMechE interests in Japan. The plan was approved by the Trustee Board. I wish the team every success and look forward to hearing of their progress.

CEO recruitment

As was recommended in our Governance Review, we are now engaged in the search for a new CEO. We have selected Saxton Bampfylde as our recruitment partner and work is now underway in researching and marketing the position. I have formed a special panel to lead us through this task and we are also undertaking a broad stakeholder consultation to seek opinions on the type of person who would be best placed to fill this very key role. We are working with the aim of having a new person in office by mid-2021.

In the meantime, Dr Colin Brown, who has been doing a brilliant job for us, will continue as our interim CEO; he has been very supportive of the recruitment process, for which I am very grateful.

Trustee Board Awards Committee (TBAC)

The Trustees heard the TBAC annual report delivered by Chair, Professor Richard Folkson. TBAC deliver over £800k in prizes and awards each year and despite the challenges of COVID have still managed to perform well in 2020. They are in the process of aligning themselves with the governance changes and they will be supported by NomCo when they recruit new members to join TBAC.

Implementation Group update

The Board considered a number of papers related to governance changes, including new Terms of Reference for the Trustee Board, the Audit and Risk Committee, RemCo and NomCo. All were approved, some pending further changes. It was also agreed that the President will be responsible for performance appraisals of the CEO (under authority from the Trustee Board) and will also undertake Trustee annual appraisals.

Collaboration with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

I reported to the Board on a new forum created to allow the Presidents of IMechE, ICE and IET to meet regularly to discuss and explore areas where we can collaborate to our mutual benefit. Together, we represent over 350,000 mechanical, civil and electrical engineers. Two meetings have now been held and we have already identified some exciting opportunities which are now being developed further. These include developing policy in key engineering issues that affect us all such as electrification of the vehicle fleet, low carbon energy systems and digital upskilling.

Well, I hope you found the content of this issue of 'Inside Track' to be informative. Your feedback is always welcomed and you can reach me at president@imeche.org, or if you have some feedback on this issue of 'Inside Track' please contact insidetrack@imeche.org.

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Terry Spall
President

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