IChemE swears in Seville as new president

Article by Staff Writer

JONATHAN SEVILLE, executive dean of engineering and physical sciences at the University of Surrey, UK, has become IChemE’s new president and pledged to use his one-year term to put relevance at the top of the institution’s agenda.

Outgoing president Andrew Jamieson presented Seville with the presidential chains at a ceremony held yesterday in Edinburgh, UK at IChemE’s AGM. Seville described the appointment as “a great honour”.

In his presidential address, entitled Relevance in a Changing World, Seville pledged to lead a review of IChemE’s governance and strategic direction. The institution is looking towards its centenary in 2022 and examining how it can change, grow, and continue to be fit for purpose. Seville believes that professional engineering institutions will need to work much harder to stay relevant.

Several key messages and themes came out of the address, which was extremely well received by those present. One of those themes was diversification. While there is increasing emphasis on, and interest in, industries such as pharmaceuticals and food and drink, around a quarter of IChemE members are still in what Seville describes as the “traditional heartland” of chemical engineering, namely oil and gas. Just 5% of members are in the water sector, and 4% work in both the food and drink and pharmaceutical industries. To stay relevant, he said, IChemE will need to expand into other areas.

Seville said that during his presidency he would “be working particularly hard” on trying to grow membership in the less well-represented areas, though acknowledged the work that is already being done.

Companies are aware of how chemical engineers can help with processes, but are perhaps unaware of the breadth of the discipline, Seville said. Unilever, for example, has 170,000 employees and spends £500m/y on R&D.

“We know that chemical engineering is the discipline of choice in companies like Shell or BP, but is it the discipline of choice for Unilever?” Seville said. “Well, there are members working hard and doing good things in Unilever, but in a company like Unilever, or Procter & Gamble, or Nestle, or GSK or Merck Sharpe & Dohme, or Pfizer, chemical engineering has to compete with other disciplines in a way that it doesn’t have to in its heartlands. I think we need to be competing harder there, and training our students so that they can compete harder there.”

Chemical engineers will need to embrace new and wider applications of the discipline in order to stay relevant. Seville pointed to the development of smart cities and integrated industrial complexes that exchange and use energy, wastes and byproducts to minimise impact. This sort of planning is something in which chemical engineers could and should get involved, Seville said.

IChemE will have to change as it moves towards its centenary in 2022, and Seville says an important part of his presidency will be to begin planning for that milestone. All professional institutions will need to change and adapt in order to provide the best service for members for the simple reason that the world itself is changing. People are busier than ever, life moves at a much faster pace than before, globalisation is key and we are all immediately interconnected by our electronic devices. IChemE will have to keep up, he explained.

IChemE also has a duty to support research and attract the next generation to the discipline from all ethnicities and backgrounds. He added that where there is a common cause with other STEM organisations and that IChemE should be working directly together rather than competing.

“Things are changing around us, and we need to make sure that we maintain our relevance in this changing world,” he concluded.

Seville graduated in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge, UK. He first joined the research division of Courtaulds before completing a PhD at Surrey. His academic career first took him to the University of Birmingham, where as head of chemical engineering he established the UK’s first research centre in formulation engineering. He spent three years at the University of Warwick as dean of engineering, and returned to Surrey in 2011.

Seville’s academic career has largely focussed on product manufacture for the pharmaceutical, homecare and fast moving consumer goods industries. However, he also co-founded a spin-out company, Recycling Technologies, and has interests in biomass conversion and solar power. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and a board member of the UK’s Engineering Council.

The AGM also saw honorary treasurer Ken Rivers outline IChemE’s financial status. IChemE has had a tough year, reporting its first deficit in 12 years. This is largely due to a huge fall in the oil price which has led to companies cutting discretionary spending on courses, advertising and conference attendance. However, Rivers reassured attendees that IChemE is taking serious measures to cut costs while maintaining spend on strategic issues. He noted that the institution’s reserves are very healthy and that Council has no concerns regarding the future viability of IChemE.

IChemE CEO David Brown announced at the AGM that the institution has agreed to share offices with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) in London, UK and South East Asia. Closer collaboration will allow more effective resource management and open opportunities to work together promoting education, training and professional registration.

Several medals were presented at the AGM. Fiona Macleod received the Frank Lees Medal, which is awarded by the Safety & Loss Prevention Special Interest Group for the best article on safety and loss prevention in an IChemE publication. This was in recognition of her Impressions of Bhopal article that appeared in issue 240 of the Loss Prevention Bulletin. Keith Johnson was presented with the Arnold Green medal for long-term service to IChemE for his work with the Nuclear Technology Special Interest Group and Sellafield Ltd’s accredited graduate scheme. Finally, Ed Daniels picked up the Council Medal for exceptional service in a specific IChemE project. This recognises his efforts in implementing and promoting the Chemical Engineering Matters strategy.

Brown announced earlier this year that he will stand down as CEO. Jamieson led the tributes at Brown’s last AGM, praising his efforts in expanding the reach of the organisation globally, and increasing its size by around 75%. Jamieson said that Brown has been a leader in spreading the message of chemical engineering’s importance to society. During Brown’s tenure, IChemE has greatly strengthened its relationships with academia, other industries and with other professional engineering organisations, as well as introducing the Corporate Partnership scheme to reinforce its links with industry.

There were a couple of changes on IChemE’s Council. John McGagh, chief digital officer at renewable energy supplier Snowy Hydro, was confirmed as IChemE’s deputy president. He will succeed Seville as president in 2017. McGagh was previously the Australian board representative on Council. This role has been filled by Allyson Black who is corporate development manager at Caltex Australia.

The AGM was held in Edinburgh to coincide with the start of IChemE’s Hazards conference, which runs from 24-26 May at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Article by Staff Writer

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