Chemeng Matters in Parliament

Article by Adam Duckett

Guests gather to discuss discipline’s positive impact on modern life

MORE than 100 specially-invited guests gathered at the UK’s Houses of Parliament in December to share the positive impact that chemical engineering has on the modern world.

Ten UK chemical engineering university departments were showcased by IChemE for research that benefits the world around us, including creating technologies for a greener pharmaceutical industry, removing arsenic from groundwater, and revolutionising the way that diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels.

Chemical Engineering Matters for a Modern World was hosted by The Baroness Brown of Cambridge and IChemE’s UK Research Committee, and welcomed guests from the academic and engineering community, as well as policy-makers, opinion-formers and members of parliament.


Engineers assemble: Geoff Maitland, Baroness Brown and Raffaella Ocone

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Julia King, said: “As one of a small number of engineers in parliament it is particularly great to see so many engineers here this evening, and it really is essential that we all share the stories about the success and the benefits to the economy that engineering brings.”

One of the projects, from the  University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemical Engineering, involved the research and development of glucose testing strips for diabetics. The spinout company, AgaMatrix, now supplies over 1m test strips per month to the NHS in the UK alone and has designed a smartphone app linked to the diagnostic device. The research has changed the lives of people living with diabetes. An estimated 347m people worldwide suffer from the disease.

“The breadth of engineering work undertaken in the UK always amazes me,” King added. “It is crucial that the engineering community communicates this effectively with parliament to ensure engineering expertise and knowledge is used to make evidence-based policy decisions. Research and its impact is a vital driver of the UK economy and engineering is essential to the success of the UK economy.”

“It is an opportunity to look at the scope of knowledge and competency required of chemical engineers as practitioners in a social context”

The research projects highlighted at the event were all chosen based on how impactful their work is in the ‘real world’. This was based on a definition from the Research Excellency Framework (REF) 2014, which describes ‘impact’ as having a positive effect on areas beyond academia. The research projects featured were from departments at University of Birmingham, University College London, Heriot-Watt, Queen’s University Belfast, Imperial College London, University of Manchester, University of Cambridge, University of Leeds, University of Surrey, and University of Strathclyde.

IChemE’s UK Research Committee chair, Raffaella Ocone, chemical engineering professor at Heriot-Watt University, was instrumental in selecting the final case studies. She said: “The work presented here today goes beyond chemical engineering. It is an opportunity to look at the scope of knowledge and competency required of chemical engineers as practitioners in a social context. These case studies show that chemical engineering draws on many different experiences and complement technical competence with a wider socio-economic perspective.”

Visit to read the report and its ten research case studies.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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