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Department of Engineering

Innovation in Construction Lecture

Innovation in Construction Lecture

The Institution of Civil Engineers

The Innovation in Construction lecture, to be held at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) on Wednesday 11 January 2012, will examine the drivers behind the accelerated evolution of the construction industry and look at the innovative technologies and processes moving it forward.

Although the live event is now fully booked, the lecture is available to watch online, either live with the opportunity to ask questions or later at a more convenient time. Register at

In today’s climate the construction industry is under continual pressure to improve cost efficiency and sustainability. These necessities are driving innovation at a pace not seen since the industrial revolution.

The programme for the afternoon includes presentations from:

  • Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Advisor to the UK Government
  • Ray O’Rourke, Chairman & Chief Executive, Laing O’Rourke
  • Bill Hewlett, Technical Director, Costain
  • Scott Steedman, Director of Products and Services, BRE
  • Steve Denton, Director of Engineering, Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Robert Mair, Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Kenichi Soga, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Duncan McFarlane, Professor of Industrial Information Engineering, University of Cambridge

ICE are producing this event in association with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (funded by EPSRC and Technology Strategy Board).

Session 1: Chaired by Sir John Parker, President, Royal Academy of Engineering

  • Welcome from the chair
  • Construction, innovation and planning: the role of Government: Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Advisor to the UK Government
  • Infrastructure and innovation: Bill Hewlett, Technical Director, Costain
  • Delivering innovation through sustainability: Scott Steedman, Director of Products and Services, BRE Group
  • Innovation or bust – The imperative for the industry to transform: Ray O’Rourke, Chairman & Chief Executive, Laing O’Rourke
  • Questions and answers


Session 2: Chaired by Peter Hansford, Executive Director, The Nichols Group

  • Introduction to the Cambridge IKC and applications of sensor technologies to construction: Robert Mair, Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Developments in sensor technologies and data management tools for construction: Kenichi Soga, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Cambridge
  • Industrial information engineering in smart infrastructure and construction: Duncan McFarlane, Professor of Industrial Information Engineering, University of Cambridge Achieving successful innovation in construction: Steve Denton, Director of Engineering, Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Questions and discussion


Bill Hewlett MA FICE CEng

Bill is Technical Director of Costain Group; he was appointed to this position in 2006. Within Costain he leads the functions of design, quality, planning, geomatics, R+D and innovation. He champions Graduate recruitment and development. In 2010 he was elected a Vice President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He founded and chairs the UK’s Temporary Works Forum. Bill graduated as a civil engineer in 1984 and joined Costain as his first employer. He developed his career on major projects. In 1999 he joined O’Rourke as Chief Engineer and managed the design office. Following the Laing O’Rourke merger he joined an internal team working specifically on innovation.

Professor Duncan McFarlane

Duncan McFarlane is Professor of Industrial Information Engineering and head of the Distributed Information & Automation Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He completed a BEng degree at Melbourne University and a PhD in the design of robust control systems at Cambridge. He is co founder of a series of programmes on information in the consumer goods, services and aerospace sectors including the Aero ID Programme, examining the role of RFID in the aerospace industry. Much of his work in the last ten years has focussed on establishing the value that new information technologies bring to industrial practice. Professor McFarlane is Co-Founder and Chairman of RedBite Solutions Ltd - an industrial RFID and track & trace solutions company.

Professor Robert Mair CBE FREng FICE FRS

Professor Robert Mair is the Sir Kirby Laing Professor of Civil Engineering and Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cambridge University. He was Master of Jesus College for the period 2001-2011, and until recently was Senior Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He is one of the founding Directors of the Geotechnical Consulting Group (GCG), started in 1983, and worked in industry for 27 years until 1998, when he was appointed to the Professorship at Cambridge. He leads a substantial research group collaborating closely with industry, focusing on the geotechnics of underground construction and innovative field monitoring techniques.

Paul Morrell

Paul Morrell is the Government’s Chief Construction Adviser, a post in November 2009 after retiring from Davis Langdon, where he had worked since joining from University in 1971, becoming a Partner in 1976 and Senior Partner in 1999.He is a Fellow of the RICS and of the ICE, an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, and served as a Commissioner on CABE from 2000 to 2008, finishing as Deputy Chairman. He was a founder member of the British Council for Offices, and served as President in 2004/5.Paul received the Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Construction Industry at the 2007 Building Awards; and was awarded an OBE for services to architecture and the built environment in the 2009 New Year Honours list.In Government, Paul lead the recent Innovation and Growth Team study into low carbon construction, is on the board of the Major Projects Authority, and chairs the Cabinet Office’s Construction Clients Board. Away from the office, enthusiasms include sailing, theatre, opera and contemporary dance; and he is on the Board of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and chairs the Siobhan Davies Dance Company.

Ray O’Rourke KBE HonFREng CEng, FICE, FIEI

Ray O’Rourke founded R O’Rourke & Son in 1977, this followed ten years working and studying in the industry to complete his engineering education. The company went on to become a major force in the UK construction industry specialising in civil engineering on sub and superstructure package contracting. In 2001, the O’Rourke Group acquired the construction arm of John Laing Plc to create today’s international engineering and construction business. As Chairman and Chief Executive of Laing O’Rourke, Ray plays a major role in the strategic direction and management of the Group. Ray is the driving force behind the Group’s Design for Manufacture and Assembly agenda, transforming the industry through innovative approaches to off-site manufacture and pre-assembly of core components using increasingly sophisticated, multi-skilled and integrated teams to deliver engineering projects across the whole range of sectors.

Professor Kenichi Soga

Kenichi Soga is Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He obtained his BEng and MEng from Kyoto University in Japan and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. His current research activities are innovative monitoring and long-term performance of infrastructure and energy geomechanics. He has published more than 200 journal and conference papers and is co-author of "Fundamentals of Soil Behavior" from John Wiley & Sons. He is recipient of many awards including George Stephenson Medal (2006) and Telford Gold Medal (2010) from ICE and Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize (2007) from ASCE.

Dr Scott Steedman CBE FREng FICE

Scott Steedman is shortly to assume the role of Director (designate) Standards at BSI where his responsibilities will include driving BSI’s Standards development strategy, engaging with business to ensure that Standards meet their needs, and strengthening relationships with the UK Government and international Standards bodies (such as ISO, CEN, IEC and CENELEC) to maintain the profile and impact of Standards. Formerly a lecturer in Engineering at Cambridge University and Fellow of St Catharine's College, Scott has spent the last twenty years working on major infrastructure and building projects in the UK and around the world and recently was Director of Products and Standards for BRE. He was President of the European Council for Construction Research, Development and Innovation for eleven years until 2008, closely involved with the development of European strategy for construction research and innovation. He is currently on the Board of the Port of London Authority. Scott is a former Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Institution of Civil Engineers and continues to be Editor-in-Chief of the Academy's flagship magazine, Ingenia. In 2007 he was awarded the Foundation for Science and Technology's Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award for the application of science and technology for the benefit of society and the US Government Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for his work on the Hurricane Katrina investigation. He was appointed CBE in 2010 for services to engineering.

Dr Steve Denton

Steve Denton is Director of Engineering at Parsons Brinckerhoff and heads their Technical Leadership Team. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Bath. His interests and experience span many facets of engineering and strategic consultancy, research and construction. In addition to his business and project leadership responsibilities, he retains a high degree of technical involvement in projects. Steve sits on numerous national and international committees and steering groups, and chairs CEN/TC 250 HG-Bridges, the international committee with responsibilities for the bridge design provisions of the Eurocodes. Steve has a strong track record of innovation, and has been responsible for many technically pioneering projects. He has published extensively.

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