Infrastructure debate celebrates 100 years of engineering excellence

The University of Sheffield celebrated the centenaries of three engineering departments: Civil and Structural, Mechanical, and Electronic and Electrical Engineering, not by looking back, but by looking forward.

A panel of alumni, academics and industry experts debated the challenges and opportunities facing the UK’s infrastructure in a panel discussion entitled Infrastructure: The Next 100 Years. Held at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London on Wednesday 1st February they were joined by 100 alumni and industry guests.

The theme of infrastructure will highlight much of the research taking place within the three departments and focus the debate on very relevant challenges being faced by engineers now.

Issues such as the UK’s role in developing the next generation of cyber-physical systems and how we can use transport infrastructure to drive economic development were debated, all within the context of the government’s commitment to spend £100 billion on infrastructure within the next five years.

Martin Mayfield, Professor of Engineering Design at the University of Sheffield and chair of the panel discussion, summarises the issues facing our infrastructure:

Due to urbanisation, technology and population growth our requirements of infrastructure are evolving and increasing in complexity. We need to think creatively about how to build resilient infrastructure to lessen the impact of extreme weather events, while also reducing our impact on the planet.

  We take all of these systems for granted but by encouraging the adoption of new approaches now engineers and researchers may help to build systems that stand the test of time. Although nobody knows what cities of the future will look like, one thing is clear: the way we travel, communicate, live and work will be hugely different.

Martin Mayfield / Professor of Engineering design 

In addition to Martin, four distinguished panelists will bring their expertise to the debate:

• Professor David Balmforth: David is a specialist in flood risk management and urban pollution control and has worked in both academic and professional practice. He also served as President of the Institution of Civil Engineers from 2014-15.
• Professor Rod Smith: A former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Transport, Rod is a leading researcher in the field of railway engineering and a long-time proponent of high-speed rail.
• Professor Jim Norton: Jim is an independent director, policy advisor and public speaker focusing on IT and digital infrastructure. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and an external board member of UK Parliament’s Office of Science and Technology (POST).
• Craig Lucas: Craig has over 20 years experience working in infrastructure industries, particularly in the energy sector. He is currently Director of Science and Innovation (Energy and Climate) at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.