Upon the Shoulders of Giants

Article by Alexandra Meldrum

Alexandra Meldrum introduces Communities of Practice

AS Newton famously said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants”

This is a great time of the year for reading and reinvention. I’m grateful how, in these Covid-pandemic times, our minds can travel and explore, even whilst physical borders are closed. I’ve just been reading a biography of Prague, the City of Literature and UNESCO Creative City.

What struck me from my “trip” to Prague was the rich history of creativity and reinvention, and the influence of groups of people acting together.

These were interesting reflections for me, as we have our own reinventions at IChemE. The Learned Society Committee (LSC) has approved the formation of two Communities of Practice (CoPs) which started in January 2021. The CoPs will report to the LSC, align with IChemE’s Strategy 2024 and develop plans that support the LSC priority topics. The CoPs are a new structure designed to enable creativity and to bring groups of people acting together.

A CoP is a member-led community of IChemE members from around the world from a wide range of sectors and backgrounds, who connect with others to gain and share knowledge related to a broad field. Through the process of sharing information and experiences with the CoP, members learn from each other, build networks, have an opportunity to develop professionally and influence policy. A CoP is focussed on serving society in ways that align with IChemE purpose, vision and strategy.

CoPs exist to provide a platform for the fulfilment of IChemE’s objective to advance the contribution of chemical engineering worldwide for the benefit of society.

Research and Innovation (R&I) CoP

The Research and Innovation (R&I) CoP replaces the three nationally-based research committees and forums that had existed previously. I’m excited about three new features of the new R&I CoP, compared to the previous organisations. The R&I CoP will be international; any members of IChemE will be able to join; and the scope will expand to cover innovation – as well as continued work in research.

In 2021, the inaugural R&I CoP Leadership Group is: Chair – Emma McLeod (UK, Industry); Deputy Chair – Cordelia Selomulya (Australia, Academia); Paula Mendes (UK, Academia); Akshat Tanksale (Australia, Academia); and Sam Wilkinson (UK, Industry). Alexandra Meldrum is the ex-officio member as the LSC Subject Area Lead for Education, Innovation and Research.

The leadership group has a ten-step plan for the foundation year in 2021 – to establish the new R&I CoP, prepare governance processes, begin working with new members, and engage proactively.

Energy CoP

The IChemE Energy Centre has transitioned to the Energy  CoP, adopting the CoP Terms of Reference. The Energy Centre Board  supports the CoP model and the transition of the Energy Centre to this.

Mark Apsey will continue as Chair, and the current Energy Centre Board members have been invited to remain as the Energy CoP Leadership Group. Neil Blundell is the ex-officio member as the LSC Subject Area Lead for Energy. 

Work to deliver the transition tasks is underway. Given the similarity in structures, this primarily involves an update to website terminology and content.

The new structure provides a new mechanism for the Energy CoP to engage with more members, and to address the challenge of maintaining engagement and providing opportunities for them to provide input.

Our new model enables greater innovation

Economists have long recognised growth through the development of skills, broad diffusion of knowledge, and adoption of technology to improve innovation and productivity. We build organisations and social structures to enable this.  The outputs from the CoPs will build capability, promote knowledge generation and inform decision makers and policy makers where relevant to address society’s challenges.

In due course, any IChemE member will be able to join a CoP much like they would a SIG. This will keep them informed of CoP activities, and enable them to volunteer to participate in projects and activities the CoP takes forward. Meanwhile, anyone interested in finding out more about the new CoPs should email lsc@icheme.org.

This is just the first “chapter”. We look forward to updating and involving IChemE members more, as we stand on the shoulders of giants, and continue to write our communities’ story.

Article by Alexandra Meldrum

Subject Area Lead – Education, Innovation and Research, Learned Society Committee

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