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President's perspectives

“Don't believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you'll see the way to fly“ from Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.

On 29th of April 2021, at an online AGM, Rob Lewis handed to me the mantle of the presidency, though I very much missed the opportunity to celebrate the Institute's successes face-to-face and thank Rob for his excellent leadership of the ICT for the past two years. Rob summarised elegantly our key achievements, despite the Covid pandemic affecting the way activities had been planned. In my opinion, we truly reflected the motto on our coat of arms: 'Robure et Science', meaning 'Strength and Science'. 'Strength' ensured us sailing successfully through the year despite the challenges and 'Science' engaged us eagerly and creatively in various activities.

One of the highlights of our annual convention is the annual symposium. This year's was an excellent event, attracting well over 120 participants from around the world. The topic of 'Net Zero Carbon Concrete' could not have been more relevant, given global interest in becoming carbon neutral. The Events Committee led by Raman Mangabhai put together an excellent programme, in which ten speakers from Belgium, France, Germany, South Africa, Sweden and the UK addressed the various topics explored by papers reproduced in this Yearbook.

It was not possible to receive the president's medallion at the AGM but Rob and I met at a later date and exchanged the medallion and a gift. This meeting was a proper hand over of the presidency, because we discussed how best I could continue the initiatives from his time in office and address the immediate challenges. He suggested how I could meet some of the aspirations that I have during my time as the President.

In my inaugural speech, I shared my observations of some of the strengths of the Institute and the opportunities for the ICT to progress further. I highlighted the excellent collegiality in all committees and how they work together to achieve our goals. I noted that we have a healthy financial reserve and that Edwin Trout has his fingers on all pulses as Executive Officer. I identified huge opportunities through our established partnerships, such as with the ACI and RILEM, and suggested similar partnerships for undertaking training and educational initiatives.

During the first five months, my focus has been to be like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I did not want to believe what I saw with my eyes, but use understanding of the global picture of concrete research, education, training and practice to learn to 'fly high'. At a recent Council meeting, we approved a new strategy document, with a new vision statement, a set of strategic goals, and a new committee structure to achieve them. We are currently finalising key performance indicators, to evaluate the progress that we make every year, and a three-year delivery plan to achieve our goals. Building on recent successes, and the renewal of the Institute's professional affiliation with the Engineering Council, we intend to strengthen our portfolio through the establishment of regional branches.

Let me now summarise some of our recent developments and achievements since the last, 25th edition of the yearbook:

  • Our new website is now fully active. Colin Nessfield, our Vice-President, is keeping it as a dynamic resource for members and those interested in joining the Institute.
  • The industry-sponsored ICT training videos have recently been launched and are available on our web portal. We have received excellent feedback.
  • For the past year the certification programme was severely compromised by the Covid pandemic; I am glad to report that we are resuming these activities.
  • I am delighted that the Engineering Council has renewed our professional affiliate status for another five years. This provides as a route for interested members to register as an internationally recognised Chartered or Incorporated engineer, or Engineering Technician.
  • The Institute is privileged to be working with a number of partners. This year, our agreement with The Concrete Society has been renewed and plans for Ulster University to run a Stage 1 course are being developed.
  • The membership of the Institute is healthy and there is a modest increase in applications. A new committee was approved recently by the Council to consider applications for Regional Branches and provide support for their activities.
  • Our support of international events continues. Recently we participated in the 24-hour rolling conference organised by the ACI, co-hosting a session and nominating two speakers, and sponsoring two forthcoming conferences in Leeds and China.
  • We have established five new committees: Management, Regional Branches, Professional Development, Marketing & Communications, and Publishing.

I hope you will join me in acknowledging that these developments are indicative of the intention to 'fly high'. I invite all members of the Institute to volunteer their support of the various committees and their agenda of moving forward in 'Strength' and 'Science'. The Institute is progressing well, thanks to the dedicated and committed committee members. I have recently seen a list of the Institute's Honorary Fellows; their profile is a true reflection of the high esteem that the Institute enjoys.

This year marks the golden anniversary of the Institute's formation and we are planning to have an excellent Annual Convention on 23 June 2022. So, please mark this date in your diary and participate as best as you can. As I mentioned already, the Council and Committee members work relentlessly hard to ensure that the Institute progresses in all of its activities. I thank them for their unreserved support.

Professor P.A. Muhammed Basheer
President, Institute of Concrete Technology 2021-23