New IChemE President David Bogle on using ethics to power the profession

Article by Amanda Jasi

DAVID Bogle has become the 81st President of IChemE. Yesterday, he delivered an Address focussed on the importance of ethics within the chemical engineering profession and education, highlighting how ethics is key to making a difference and attracting talent.

Speaking from Savoy Place, London, UK, he was only 100 m from the site where IChemE’s first meeting took place 100 years ago – at the Hotel Cecil – addressing an in-person audience of around 100 members, trustees, and invited guests, with many more watching the Address live online. A recording of the speech is available to watch below.

“It’s a great honour to be elected IChemE president especially in this, the Centenary year, and I am looking forward to it immensely,” Bogle said, noting that he has been reading Centenary articles and attending its events “with great interest”. He said he takes up his Presidency at a time of celebration for IChemE, but also a time of concern, making mention of the war in Ukraine, divided national populations, rising inequality, and the climate emergency.

“The climate emergency and making the world sustainable is the great challenge of our time. We chemical engineers have a central role in this through designing industrial processes, urban systems, and many everyday operations to be more sustainable and eventually net zero.

“Our skill set puts us right at the heart of the challenge through devising best use of energy and materials to satisfy – and limit – the demand of our fellow citizens. IChemE has this at the heart of our strategy, guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

During his speech, entitled Chemical Engineering: An Ethical Profession, he said: “Our role in promoting more sustainable ways of operating is one of the ways in which we seek to be ethical.”

Attracting talent

“To help tackle the climate emergency in particular we need to continue to attract fine talent into our profession,” he said.

Speaking about students he highlighted that numbers of those studying chemical engineering in the UK and elsewhere remain strong, as is the footprint of topics in which chemical engineers can deploy their skills where there is a chemical and physical change. He listed “environmental, biological, medical, designing new materials, as well as our core heartland of manufacturing and energy”.

However, “it’s seen as a hard course and, vitally, not yet sufficiently clearly as a route to a profession that is making a big contribution to the climate emergency”.

In an interview with The Chemical Engineer, Bogle explained that it is important for young people to understand the contribution chemical engineering can make, because they are looking for “a profession, a career, a life that’s making a contribution”.

“They all recognise the climate emergency as a major issue that is confronting them in a way that it didn’t confront us when I was that age […] Many, many of them are very concerned about that. So we want to be seen that we’re helping to tackle that challenge, and we’re doing that in an ethical way. Because they want to have those values of honesty, and be seen to be making a difference in a good way.”

Acknowledging the strong student number for the field he added in his interview, “it’s attracting them into IChemE that I really want us to work on”.

“It’s making it clear the value proposition to them and why they need to join because quite a lot don’t join, and we want to be drawing them in. So, it’s not just drawing them into chemical engineering […] but its them joining IChemE as a statement of their professional values.”

In his Address, he said: “By becoming a member of a professional organisation such as IChemE we are demonstrating a commitment to ethical principles – to the Statement of Ethical Principles published by the Engineering Council and Royal Academy of Engineering. I think this is a powerful force in recruiting potential young engineers who wish to work in an ethical profession.”

Retaining a higher fraction of chemical engineering graduates within the membership, as well as increasing the already “strong” number of Chartered members, are goals which Bogle mentioned for IChemE in his Address. He told The Chemical Engineer that plans to achieve these are in the works, and actions will be put in place “in due course”.

Strategy 2028

IChemE’s Strategy 2024 sets out a clear path for how it will advance the contribution of chemical engineering worldwide to benefit society. During his Address, Bogle highlighted that it runs until 2024, and a new strategy is in development that will lead up until 2028 and build on the work of ChemEngEvolution.

He added that in the coming months, a draft strategy will be developed through key committees and Congress, which will serve as the basis for a member consultation in early 2023. After revisions based on consultation, the Board of Trustees is expected to sign off in July of that year, leading to a public launch in September.

“We hope you will all engage in this process to develop a strategy to inspire the whole profession to play its part in addressing the challenges ahead.

“These may be challenging times, but it is clear to me that the future for chemical engineering is bright. We must work with others, but we are key players in tackling the climate emergency and are increasingly being seen as such.

He added: “As IChemE, we represent the chemical engineering profession and I hope by being clear about our commitment to safety, sustainability, diversity and ethics we can attract more as members to see it clearly as a commitment to these values.

“For my title I contemplated putting a question mark after An Ethical Profession? But I do believe that we are an ethical profession, although there is more to do. But most of all, we need to be clear to society and particularly to potential students that we are an ethical profession and to clearly demonstrate this.”

Prior to his Presidency, Bogle has been helping IChemE focus on ethics by contributing to and volunteering to help produce The Chemical Engineer’s Ethics Series.

Currently a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School and Early Career Researchers at University College London (UCL), UK, IChemE Fellow Bogle was elected as President last year. The formal handover of the Presidency was given by the 80th President, Jane Cutler, during the IChemE’s Annual General Meeting held on 14 June.

Bogle’s career began with a chemical engineering degree and then PhD from Imperial College London, UK before spending three years in industry and three years in academia in Australia. He joined UCL in 1990 and has since worked up to his current role, in which he oversees researchers across all disciplines.

His expertise is in process systems engineering and in systems biology, working with a range of academic and industrial partners, particularly from the pharmaceutical industry.

Bogle was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2005 and is currently chair of the Engineering Ethics Reference Group for the Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineering Council.

You can watch a recording of Bogle's address on IChemE’s YouTube Channel.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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