Digital technologies are transforming lives and work

Digital technologies are transforming lives and work

2nd October 2020

In this blog, Alexandra Meldrum, from our Learned Society Committee, explains more about IChemE’s member-led Digitalisation project, which she is leading.

Name: Alexandra Meldrum  

Job title and organisation: Principal Advisor, Productivity Commission 

IChemE role: Subject Area Lead in Education Innovation and Research upon the Learned Society Committee;  Leader of IChemE’s Digitalisation Project; Member of the Education and Accreditation Forum.

Bio: In speeches, I say I work in the “essentials of life”. Chemical engineers take a central role in tackling the global grand challenges for our society – including in food, water, energy and health. I’m a senior executive and director with 20 years of experience in industry, universities, associations and government. Each new project or role is a learning opportunity and an opportunity to make a difference I’m excited to be leading IChemE's Digitalisation project, and I’m really looking forward to creating transformative change.

I first heard about IChemE at a university barbecue. Drawn to the sausage sizzle, my friends and I signed up as IChemE members.

Seems like much has changed since then. We are now more likely to meet through a screen.

Digital technologies have helped us to maintain our society, work and friendships throughout the challenges of physical distancing in a pandemic. In some ways, a shared challenge seems to have brought the world closer. I’m grateful for the digital technologies that make this possible. Even before the pandemic, our profession was facing transformation. We are in a technology revolution and the changes are everywhere.

The application of new digital technologies is changing our society, economy and politics. Organisations, government and education are impacted by the development of digital technologies that are impacting roles, processes and organisations.

Impacting all of us in chemical engineering

Digital technologies are impacting how we do work and what we work on. This change affects all of us as chemical, biochemical and process engineers.

As digital technologies are applied, they transform the areas where we work. We can innovate, exploit opportunities, and solve new problems. We’ll also face challenges.

I’m excited that chemical engineers take a central role in tackling the Global Grand Challenges for our society – including food, water, energy and health.

Our Digitalisation project

IChemE exists to advance chemical engineering’s contribution worldwide for the benefit of society.

Through our learned society function, we work to address society’s Grand Challenges for Engineering and support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Learned Society Committee has made Digitalisation one of three priority topics. IChemE needs to understand how digital technologies affect chemical, biochemical and process engineering professionals, and ensure members are aware of the impacts and are prepared for change.

We need to provide new education and continuous learning and promote ethical and responsible use of digital technology across process industries. IChemE needs to provide the information, facilitate debate and deliver training to support members so that they have the required knowledge, skills and capabilities for employment and to actively serve society throughout their careers.

The Digitalisation project will run for three years and support the delivery of Strategy 2024.

It will focus on digital tools including systems thinking, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, process control and automation, virtual reality, cyber security and process design. It will seek to develop our capabilities in the critical enablers for use of these tools – ethical and responsible leadership, education and lifelong learning and organisational aspects.

The project outputs will have broad application across seven subject areas: Education Innovation and Research (EIR), Energy, Food and Beverages, Health and Wellbeing, Manufacturing and Resources, Safety and Risk, and Water.

Digitalisation Technical Advisory Group (TAG)

IChemE has set up a Digitalisation TAG with the responsibility of leading the Digitalisation project. The recent call for nominations had a high level of interest and we are pleased to announce and congratulate the members who were selected to join the inaugural group. We would like to thank everyone who submitted a nomination.

The group was selected based on technical skills and to ensure a diverse representation covering the breadth of subject areas, career backgrounds, geographies, gender and age.

The group’s first goal will be to develop resources to equip IChemE members with knowledge and skills. We would like to thank the members of the Learned Society Forum and special interest groups who have provided feedback on our initial priorities and look forward to continuing to work with you over the next three years.

This article appeared in the latest issue of The Chemical Engineer. More details on the learned society work will follow in the future issues of the magazine and this blog.