Engineers Ireland head rallies against ‘arrogance of the past’

22 Apr 2010

Dr Chris Horn, president of Engineers Ireland and co-founder of Iona Technologies, has said that Irish society is reeling from past arrogant incompetence but now must focus on ingenuity and more effective regulation to rebuild towards a just and prosperous future.

The comments were made as part of the opening address to conference delegates on the first day of the Engineers Ireland Conference 2010 in Cork.

Horn said Ireland needed better processes across every facet of our society to restore public confidence and boost economic recovery.

“As a result of the failures in our society and in our systems, many of the public are disillusioned and frankly apprehensive about the future. Professionals in many disciplines, from banking, to medicine, to the religious have been damaged by scandals. There are many investigations to be had, many fingers to be pointed and many lessons to be learnt. But life must go on, too. There is a time and place for post mortems on the Celtic Tiger but our current national priority must be on urgently rebuilding our economy.
“This time the rebuilding must be done within a framework of systems, within processes and with robust regulation. Professional engineers have much – especially now – to contribute to Ireland.

“Engineering considers systems in a holistic way, building in stress tests and fail-safe alternatives, and by using ingenuity and experience to overcome challenging problems in the interest of society at large. As well as being directly relevant to realising the aspirations of the smart economy and Innovation Taskforce proposals, these principles are relevant to the Irish nation as a whole. The vision of the Innovation Taskforce, that by 2020 Ireland will have a significant number of large, world-leading, innovation-intensive companies, will only be possible if we can improve our processes – the ingenuity of engineers is integral to this,” Horn said.

Ireland could lose out to BRIC countries

He also warned that Ireland and other developed countries are now in danger of losing out to developing nations not only in terms of cost but also as a result of the disruptive innovations that these economies were spreading to the West.

“Emerging countries are no longer just doing things cheaply. They’re also embracing a spirit of ingenuity and creativity. They’re innovating, too, by re-designing products and making commercial breakthroughs in everything from healthcare to telecommunications. The BRIC (Brazil-Russia-India-China) countries are actually streamlining and improving whole business processes to achieve results even more effectively than competitors like Ireland in developed countries. Consequently, we have to innovate if we are to compete and win. Engineers are the epitome of this creativity and ingenuity and will underpin this.”  

Engineers Ireland Annual Conference

The first day of the Engineers Ireland Annual Conference 2010 also featured contributions from Peter Clinch, special adviser to the Government, James Ives, OpenHydro, John Mullins, Bord Gais, Regina Moran, Fujitsu, and Roger Whatmore, Tyndall University.

The second day of the conference will be opened by Minister John Gormley TD, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This will be followed by parallel discussion sessions, the first focused on leadership and innovation in practise, hosted by the Engineers Ireland Cork Region. Issues associated with Ireland’s water management, including waste water and water charges, will be the focus of the second parallel session.

The third parallel session will be dedicated to matters relating to securing Ireland’s energy future.

Photo: Dr Chris Horn, president of Engineers Ireland and co-founder of Iona Technologies