Presidential blog: The hard work starts now!

Presidential blog: The hard work starts now!

24th July 2023

In the first of his Presidential Blogs, IChemE President Nigel Hirst talks about what’s coming next for the Institution and the four areas of focus during his presidency: collaboration, continuous learning, community and choice.

IChemE President Nigel Hirst 2023-2024

Name: Nigel Hirst

Role: IChemE President 2023-2024

A month into my presidency and I’m pleased to say that I have already got to work, kicking off actions in the focus areas I shared in my Presidential Address. Those of you who joined me in London, or who have since watched the recording of the Address online, will know that I talked about the four Cs:

  • collaboration
  • continuous learning
  • community, and
  • choice.

With so much to do, and just the one year to do it in, I’ve chosen these four topics because they are personally important to me, and I feel we can achieve results during my Presidency.


To achieve our vision of engineering a sustainable future, we need to get our voice heard. To do that we need to collaborate with those stakeholders who have the knowledge and resources to achieve our mutual aims, and with those who have a seat at the right tables. The time is right to look beyond our own walls and intensify our public engagement to demonstrate to those outside the profession of the unique and priceless contribution chemical engineers can make to solving the world’s grand challenges – and this is where I am looking to focus our efforts, knowing that by working together we can all make a difference.

We’ve already started making progress, signing a Letter of Intent with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and although initially this is based around hydrogen, it’s intended to be open-ended. I look forward to developing that relationship further.

We have started building closer relationships with other institutions, identifying where we can work together to position chemical engineering favourably. I was heartened to hear that many of the presidents of the other engineering institutions who joined me at my address enthusiastically shared my vision.

Expect to see more approaches to governments to influence policy decisions that affect our profession and the industries in which our members work. Keep an eye on our news page or follow us on LinkedIn for the latest updates.

Continuous learning

IChemE is the membership and therefore providing support for members’ professional development at all stages of their careers must be a priority, and more support will be developed in this area over the year.

I can’t claim that this happened on my watch but last year IChemE launched the Sustainability Hub which ensures all chemical engineers can absorb knowledge to improve their competency in sustainability. What I can say is that more courses will be developed and added to the Sustainability Hub, all which will remain free for members until the end of 2025.

All members are invited to, and in fact I would urge them to, join their local member group or their preferred special interest groups to network and share knowledge. These groups have held and continue to hold, webinars and presentations on some fascinating topics, and we are working to make these more widely available via the Knowledge Hub, a free member benefit which already contains thousands of resources on all things chemical and process engineering.

We know how important the support provided by our volunteer mentors is to those wishing to become registered and gain chartered membership. Initiatives are in the pipeline to strengthen our mentoring provision with the aim of expanding our capacity to offer a mentor to more members who would benefit from career support or advice.


IChemE was founded as a community of, and for, people involved in chemical and process engineering, and that is still the core of our being. What is wonderful to see is that our community is now global. We gain so much by interacting together, helped by today’s video calling technologies as well as continuing, where we can, to meet face to face. I‘m committed to developing that community, welcoming all chemical engineers to join us and ensuring that are able to support each other.

We will be launching a new global digital community which will help us to strengthen our community, wherever in the world our members reside. Using this, all members will be able to interact with each other, and engage on topics which interest them, share views and experiences, and request support. Initiatives are in the pipeline to strengthen our mentoring provision via the same platform, where mentors and mentees can link to provide/benefit from career support or advice.


In my view, one of the defining features of a chemical engineering education is that it gives you choice. That choice has led me on a career path which has been both rewarding and exciting to me, and I would argue, valuable to the economy and society. I am passionate about making that choice available to many more people from all kinds of backgrounds. So, a priority for me is to make sure that many more young people – as well as the not-so-young! – are given the opportunity to understand what chemical engineering is, understand the skills and knowledge you can gain, and understand where it can take you. 

I was delighted to join the judging panel for the Davidson Inventors Challenge at the University of Cambridge recently, a competition jointly sponsored by IChemE, and was even more delighted to receive an email from the parent of one of the participants:

“The Challenge led to an extraordinary interest on my daughter’s part in an area of science and through the Challenge she explored that area and learnt a great deal about research, project planning, experimentation, teamwork, motivation, prioritisation and presentation. Before the result was known I was already thinking “Gosh, this really is going to help motivate the children”. I thought the Final and the Challenge as a whole was very impressive, and indeed likely to be inspirational for some, perhaps even for many, of those attending.” 

To ensure we reach as many young people as possible, we are collaborating with chemical engineering departments at universities in the UK, Australasia and more widely to refresh and relaunch our education outreach programmes. I am pushing for us to work much more closely with the universities – and increasingly, apprenticeship and vocational route providers – to ensure that chemical engineering is seen as a desirable career that can indeed change the world for the better. A chemical engineering career has traditionally been accessed via a chemical engineering degree, but as some young people may not have the opportunity, or the means, to attend university, we must make sure there are routes to professional recognition that are accessible to all.

We’ll also be working with, and for, members to help them recognise the transferable skills they have, in addition to helping them be ready for the ever-changing technologies and jobs of the future. The pace of change is such that none of us can stand still - and who would want to? Chemical engineers of all ages have the outlook, the skills and the know-how to contribute to a better world – and IChemE is here to help them do that.

I’m convinced that the world has never had a greater need for the skills chemical engineers bring, and I am leading the charge to demonstrate to those outside the profession of the unique and priceless contribution chemical engineers can make to solving the world’s ‘grand challenges’.

But of course, I cannot do this alone. I am grateful for the support of my fellow Trustees, the 3,000 volunteers who are the lifeblood of IChemE, and the knowledgeable and dedicated staff who will all be working together to deliver positive change for the benefit of our members, the environment and society. Together, we can achieve our vision, so let’s get started.

If you have any questions you would like to put to me, or have any feedback on the above, I welcome your thoughts - please send me an email to I look forward to hearing from you.

Watch a recording of Nigel Hirst’s Presidential Address and view the photos from the event.