Monday, 25 November 2013

The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education 2013

I enjoyed a very pleasant evening recently at St James’ Palace, London (no less) where I was attending a Reception to announce the Prize-winners in the tenth round of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. 

Invitation card
These awards, presented biennially, recognise and celebrate outstanding innovative work within UK higher and further education institutions and its beneficial and practical effect.  They are the highest form of national recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution.

The winning entries (of which there were twenty in total on this occasion) represent work by individual departments and research groups, major infrastructure and enterprise projects, vocational and technical training programmes and the application of cutting-edge research.

Entries undergo a rigorous process of independent external assessment.  This includes review by national and international experts and specialists covering the relevant disciplines, reference to government departments and UK devolved governments with a particular interest in the fields of work under consideration and, to professional and other bodies and sources. 

I was proud several years ago to be invited to be one of the members of the reviewing body – known as “Readers” – of which I understand there are about 350 or so in total and something of the order of half of us were present at the reception yesterday evening at the Palace.

The “Readers” are effectively the early-stage adjudicators/judges and are asked to study several different submissions, assess their merit and also to suggest any areas where further information in support of the submission might be requested.  The best submissions from these initial rounds then go forward for more rigorous assessment by the main judging panel.

This year, I “read” two submissions – one from a Northern Ireland College of Further Education which had promoted a scheme to encourage its students to become involved at a detailed level in construction schemes for local charities and public bodies and the second submission (talk about being off at a tangent) was for a University’s programme to assist the training and development of elite athletes in the run up to the London Olympics and beyond.  One of their star athletes involved in the programme was not other than double Olympic Champion, Mo Farah.  Unfortunately, neither of these submissions sufficiently impressed the later round judges sufficiently to win one of the Prizes.

Winning institutions in this round focused on applied research in a range of areas including amongst others:-

·         Multidisciplinary work on environmental, ecological and economic challenges: Cardiff University; Cornwall College; Newcastle University

·     Innovation in surgery training, human anatomy and forensic ID and ground-breaking applications in archaeology: The University of Edinburgh; University of Dundee; University of Leicester

·         Manufacturing techniques and processes and industrial design: Loughborough University; The University of Manchester; University of the Arts, London

I was fortunate to speak briefly with one of the winners from the University of Oxford, a neuro-physician, who had pioneered practical and cost-effective improvements in the prevention of Strokes, and also, with Peter Chenery, the Chief Executive of the Royal Anniversary Trust, which sponsors and promotes the Awards.
Prize winners
I also bumped into a couple of Past-Presidents from the Association of Building Engineers, Arwel Griffith and Diane Marshall (it was Diane who had the dubious honour of draping the ABE Presidential Chain of Office around my own neck in the House of Lords in May 2008).  I didn’t get the chance to speak for very long with Arwel, but had plenty of time to do so with Diane – who I haven’t seen for ages it seems – and shared a taxi back to Kings Cross after the Reception was finished.

As a footnote, Anne has been telling everyone that she was especially impressed when I was originally asked to be a “Reader” for a set of Awards primarily aimed at the “Education” sector…….apparently she believe that this constitutes some sort of official recognition that not only can I “read” but apparently therefore, I also must be “educated”!

Hmmmm… about damning with faint praise!

Rhys Taylor

Monday, 18 November 2013

Association of Building Engineers annual conference 2013

Anne and I, along with our good friend and colleague Robin Brown, Director of our Associated Company RBA Consulting of Arksey, Doncaster, were very pleased to be able to attend this year’s ABE Annual Conference at the Windmill Village Hotel, Coventry, on 14th-15th November.  This was the 51st Annual conference that the ABE has held and marked another major milestone in the Association’s history – the awarding of a Royal Charter – as, from 1st January 2014, the Association of Building Engineers will henceforth be known as the “Chartered Association of Building Engineers”.
Lady Godiva
The formal presentation of the Royal Charter will take place on 6th December at Gray’s Inn, London and will be carried out by HRH The Duke of Gloucester and I have been invited to attend that event, also.

As is always the case with ABE Conferences, there are two essential elements to the event, these being the opportunity to receive presentations from leaders of the construction industry (all contributing towards one’s annual CPD Requirement) and also, to meet up with old friends and colleagues from all round the UK and overseas.
Beryl Menzies, Kate Ilott & Kate Denne
This year’s seminar speakers included Jack Pringle (Chairman, Construction Industry Council), Claire Curtis-Thomas (Chief Executive, British Board of Agrément), Dr Peter Bonfield OBE (Chief Executive, Building Research Establishment) and speakers from various other organisations including EC Harris, BB7, CIC, HSE, Association for Project Safety, Association of CDM Co-ordinators, Laing O’Rourke, BM Trada and the NHBC.

The conference was formally opened this year by the ABE’s new Patron, the Earl of Lytton.  Lord Lytton, who is himself a practising Chartered Surveyor, was already an Honorary Fellow of the ABE and has been a major contributor to numerous Government working parties and advisory groups, including one which in the mid-1990s led directly to the Party Wall etc Act 1996 being brought into force in England and Wales.
Jim Charlton & Robin Brown
The closing presentation of the Conference was by the ABE’s Chief Executive Dr John Hooper, assisted by the two Deputy Chief Executives Kate Ilott and Kevin Blunden, who brought the Conference Delegates fully up-to-speed with the arrangements for the change to Chartered status for the Association and of course, it members.  Subject to maintaining at least their required minimum CPD (Continuing Professional Development) requirements of 35 hours annually, corporate Members and Fellows will be able to register with the Engineering Council as Chartered Building Engineers. 

The highlight of the social side of the Conference was the black-tie dinner on the Thursday evening, which was attended by over 150 delegates and guests.  Those members attending the dinner who had already registered their wish to be “upgraded” to chartered status and, who had also registered their CPD records up to date, were presented with their new Certificates and also, their Certificates as Chartered Building Engineers; however, the certificates are of course, forward-dated and will not come into force until 1st January 2014.

Antony & Patricia Wedge

Lisa Griffith, Anne-Marie Wadood, Christine Samuels & Colin Bell's partner, Karen

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening – meeting many old friends and a few new ones as well.  It was especially good to once again see several ABE Past Presidents, including Beryl Menzies, Pat Reddin, Robert Biggs, Ken Blount, Nick Himmans, Colin Bell and Immediate Past President, John Humphries.  Also there was Past President Arwel Griffith, who received a Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his many years service to the ABE at both regional and national level, including for several years as the ABE’s Honorary Treasurer.

On the Friday morning, whilst the delegates were attempting to sober-up after the Conference dinner, their partners (Anne included) were taken on a tour of Coventry City Centre including the Cathedral.  I can recall my Mother telling me that she was in service in a large house in Hereford during the 2nd World War and she could remember being taken to the top of a local hill to witness the orange glow from the fires that raged in Coventry following a bombing attack by the Luftwaffe.  The old Cathedral was gutted by the fires and a new Cathedral was later built alongside the original – the ruins of which now form a monument to those who perished in the conflict.
Coventry Cathedral

Coventry Cathedral

The conference included a trade exhibition with a dozen or so stands promoting their first class services & products to the conference delegates.  It was especially good to meet up with a few old friends amongst the exhibitors also, including the ABE Yorkshire and Humber Regional Chairman Basil Parylo on the LABC stand, and Paul Shepherd and Jonathan Thomas on the Wykamol Products stand.

All in all, it was as always, a thoroughly enjoyable – albeit rather tiring – few days away from the office routine and we can’t wait to repeat the exercise once again, at a future event.

Rhys Taylor