Presidential Blog: Collaborations and conversations

Presidential Blog: Collaborations and conversations

28th November 2023

IChemE President Nigel Hirst talks about some of the key collaborations and conversations he’s taken part in this month, as well as new appointments to reconfigure IChemE for an improved member experience.

Now, it’s not often I get called an icon! So full credit to the Royal Academy of Engineering and Transport for London, who marked World Engineering Day by collaborating to produce a special 'Engineering Icons' themed Tube map, with 274 Tube and Elizabeth line stations named after leading engineers. I had the honour to have Vauxhall station on the ‘Materials and Manufacturing’ line renamed after me, so you can now travel from Dame Julia Higgins, to me, via Dame Judith Hackitt! Have a look at the reimagined Tube map and see how many names of notable engineers you recognise.  

It’s that time of year when we invite members to renew their membership, and you should have received an email from me recently inviting you to please renew your membership. We’ve used email in order to reduce our environmental impact, but I appreciate you may have been expecting the usual envelope through the letterbox, so please do double-check your inbox. With a backdrop of the current economic climate, we’ve worked hard to keep necessary cost increases as low as possible, so you’ll only see an increase of around 3%. To retain your privileges as a member and remain a part of our vibrant community, please renew your membership for 2024. You’ll continue to enjoy a great range of benefits, as well as helping us continue to build a more dynamic, inclusive, sustainable and supportive institution and profession. 

I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming 16 IChemE Past Presidents, CEO Yvonne Baker and Deputy President Mark Apsey to a lunch at the House of Lords in November, courtesy of Baroness Brown. This was a hugely interesting and motivating event for me, and among the many topics under discussion was how to ensure IChemE grows sustainably, is fit for future challenges, and gathering our institutional expertise to enable us to be ‘the voice’ for our profession. This group is an invaluable resource that holds IChemE members’ best interests first and foremost in their minds. 

In my very first IChemE blog, back in July 2023, I talked about my focus on significantly improving your membership experience and supporting your professional development, so I’m delighted to welcome Dr Rachel Bibby into the new role of Director of Member Experience and Professional Learning. Rachel has a strong track record in strategic leadership and business development of membership organisations and holds a PhD in Microbiology and Biochemistry. She is committed to driving our continued efforts to innovate and adapt for the benefit of all members and to ensuring that IChemE remains your partner of choice, with an active, committed, inclusive global member base.  

We’re also pleased to be appointing another new position, so watch this space for more news on our Head of Policy and Impact, who will be helping to deliver some of our strategic objectives.  

Preview of IChemE Connect

Another topic I outlined in my first July blog was my strong commitment to developing our plans to launch a new global digital community, so I was very excited to have recently had a sneak preview of IChemE Connect. Designed to be a hub of knowledge, discussion, and collaboration, IChemE Connect is a place where all members can engage in conversation, interact on topics, ask questions, and share views and experiences. We will also be using the platform to support our all-important mentoring provision. IChemE Connect will ‘soft’ launch in December to a group of around 100 member volunteers to ensure it runs smoothly, with the main member launch taking place early in the spring. 

I recently attended IChemE’s Delivery against Climate Change Commitments Working Group’s ‘Just Transition’ workshop, ably facilitated by IChemE Past President Geoff Maitland. The workshop was well attended and really showed what great convening power IChemE has. Policy reports and strategic documents relating to Net Zero completed by the National Engineering Policy Centre, containing significant contributions from IChemE and its members, are accessible via the IChemE website. 

Meeting Mark Pawsey MP

We are also continuing to extend our one-to-one collaborations with government and policymakers, and Yvonne Baker and I were pleased to welcome Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, to IChemE HQ in November. Mark sits on the Commons Select Committee for the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), and he was interested to find out how IChemE is raising awareness of STEM careers among young students, and opening up the possibility of that crucial defining feature of a chemical engineering education: choice. We are looking forward to working more with Mark in Parliament next year. 


IChemE volunteers helping young students test the efficiency of their turbine models
Tea and cakes with IChemE volunteers after the education outreach session

As part of his visit, Mark had the opportunity to observe part of our education outreach programme at a local primary school, focusing on renewable energy. He could see and appreciate the value that was added by the IChemE volunteers delivering the programme, who did a terrific job showing students how to engineer miniature turbine models, and measure which types of blades were most efficient. The school’s headteacher praised their input, noting how inspiring they were as engineering career role models to his young students. I also really enjoyed chatting with them afterwards and hearing their feedback about how rewarding they found their volunteering experience. Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about volunteering for IChemE – I can recommend it.  

I welcome input from all our members, so as always, if you have any ideas or questions you would like to put to me, please send me an email to I look forward to hearing from you.

Previous presidential blogs

October 2023 - To mentor or be mentored, everybody wins!

September 2023 - Engineering a sustainable world

August 2023 - Futureproofing the profession

July 2023 - The hard work starts now!