Centenary blog: Spotlight on social experience

Centenary blog: Spotlight on social experience

1st April 2022

Every month throughout our centenary year, we will be asking an IChemE member to write a blog about each of the centenary themes. The themes have been selected to highlight and celebrate the enormous contribution that chemical engineering has made to society over the last century.

IChemE Honorary Fellow Dr Marlene Kanga, who was part of the editorial panel looking at social experience, picks out her choices of elements to celebrate, communicate and inspire.

Dr Marlene Kanga, Past President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO)

Name: Dr Marlene Kanga

Job title and organisation: Immediate Past President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), Non-Executive Director of a number of organisations involving engineering and innovation.

IChemE role: Member of the social experience editorial panel for the centenary, Chair designate for the IChemE Safety Centre and Major Hazards Committee.

Bio: As President of WFEO, Marlene led the proposal for UNESCO member states to declare 4 March as World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development, the first international day that celebrates engineering.

She is an advocate of the role of engineers and engineering in society with a specific focus on advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She has spoken and written widely on the purpose and impact of engineering as well as the need for more engineers with the right skills to enable sustainable development and to develop the necessary communication skills to engage effectively with stakeholders and to thoughtfully consider the wider impacts of their work.

Engineers are essential for developing and implementing the solutions necessary for sustainable development and to address pressing global issues, including climate change, resource utilisation and energy transition. Engineers need to be more aware that their responsibility to society goes beyond technical competency and be thoughtful about the impact of their work on society and the environment.

We appreciate the contributions of so many thought leaders, as part of the IChemE centenary celebrations, regarding the positive impact of chemical engineers and the work that we must do for a better, sustainable world.

I have been asked to select three elements from within the theme to celebrate, communicate and inspire – here are my highlights.


  • Chemical engineers have played a central role in enabling the high standards of living. From the development of abundant, affordable energy and new materials through to improving access to clean water, facilitating intensive agriculture and the production of bulk pharmaceuticals.

  • Chemical engineers are needed more than ever to accelerate the global energy transition from fossil fuels to abundant and affordable energy using low carbon technologies such as renewables and hydrogen, and the use and development of fossil-free chemical feedstocks.

  • Chemical engineers are leading the way with sustainable practices through process design to reduce energy and water consumption, improve food supply and food security through innovative processing, increase food longevity, and in the development of alternatives to animal proteins. This is particularly important for developing countries.


  • Engineers will need to not only innovate and develop the technologies needed to address global challenges but also to communicate effectively to policymakers and political leaders to enable a shift from established systems.

  • Chemical engineers need to communicate the importance of their work, not only with respect to solutions for a sustainable future, but also to address issues such as environmental pollution.

  • We will need to combine our unquestionable technical prowess with engaging narratives about our vision and our work for a better sustainable world.


  • Chemical engineers have an exciting future with a central role to play in rapidly transitioning the world from fossil fuels to abundant and affordable low carbon energy for all, and to ensure that no one is left behind.

  • Chemical engineering itself will be transformed with new fields including artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, and will embrace new disciplines including elements of physics, biotechnology and molecular biology for the new technologies and solutions that are needed.
  • The quality of life of future generations depends on the ability of chemical engineers to address the challenges that the world is facing, for a sustainable world.

Thank you for reading my highlights. I encourage you to visit the social experience section of the ChemEng Evolution website to find out more or join me and my fellow panellists for what I’m sure will be a thought-provoking debate in our webinar on the topic.

The social experience panel discussion entitled ‘The potential future trajectories of society and how the work of the chemical engineering profession may be tasked to add value’ was held on 13 April 2022. Watch the recording here. For more information on IChemE's centenary, visit www.chemengevolution.org or follow #ChemEngEvolution on social media.