Engineering the Right Future Imperial College, London 16th November 2010
“ Engineering the Right Future”
Iain Conn Chief Executive BP Refining & Marketing Newitt Lecture 2010
16th November, 2010
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be with you this evening. In fact, it’s special for me as it illuminates for me three important commendations. First, I realize it’s now more than 25 years since I was one of you – preparing to graduate from Imperial College as a chemical engineer and to make my way in the world. Second, a recognition of how in the intervening quarter century the world has changed – not just of the amount of change, but of the sheer acceleration of change. And third, I reflect on how engineering and applied science have become central to change. Indeed, it strikes me that the more complex the challenges facing the world become, the more pivotal engineering is to the search for solutions. That is the essence of what I want to talk about tonight – engineering as a vocation and as a part of the answer to big questions which need to be answered. If we don’t find answers, the World will be a much more challenging and dangerous place. If we do find answers, decades and potentially centuries of future prosperity become possible. I’m talking especially about energy where engineering is crucial. The future is never guaranteed, and engineering the right future today is an imperative for all of us.
Herbert Hoover, a renowned engineer who went on to become a much-maligned President of the United States, had an inspiring way of talking about what he called this “great profession”: “There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comfort of life. This is the.