Sue Terpilowski OBE , John Pelton MBE and He-In Cheong

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The Imperial Women’s Network welcomed three guest speakers, John Pelton MBE, He-In Cheong and Sue Terpilowski OBE who discussed Innovation in Transport.

Innovation in construction

“Collaboration, capability and culture.” These are the conditions needed to achieve innovation according to John Pelton MBE, Programme Director, Jacobs Consultancy. Speaking at the Innovation in Transport event (6 Feb 2019), John was discussing the Innovate18, the legacy Crossrail Innovation programme.

John led an engaged audience of alumni, students and guests through several practical exercises in his interactive presentation. He discussed the conditions required for innovation to occur and the inhibitors. Outlining the unique Crossrail approach of innovation teams and champions, John explained how this allowed all individuals working on the project to become their own innovators, leading to a unique collaborative approach. The project provided the strategy and process for managing innovation in mega projects of the future.   

Reflecting on the legacy left by Crossrail, John talked about the iP3 programme, a platform forging collaborations across the infrastructure industry ‘helping transform ideas in to opportunities’.

The barriers to innovation include cost, time, disruption, lack of trust, risk or lack of sponsorship to name but a few. Take these inhibitors away and create an environment where collaboration is universal and innovative solutions and ideas will flourish.

Innovation in city infrastructure

The audience, which included representatives from the construction, rail and shipping industries, then heard from He-In Cheong, a PhD student at Imperial College London working on integrating modelling platforms. He-In discussed the future of automated transport, which “by 2035+, many researchers believe, will be fully machine-led and all humans will be passengers.”

“Currently 90% of all road traffic accidents are attributed, at least in part, to human error therefore by removing the need for human operation in the future infrastructure systems, transport will be safer and more efficient.”  

He-In and her colleagues at Imperial are looking at the smart cities of the future, designing systems that work with autonomous cars including the use of vertical car parks, to meet the needs of an ever-increasing urban population. “The transport systems of the future will be smarter, more effective and better meet the needs of users. There will be less timetabling of public transport, which is currently very inflexible. The future systems will be reactive, and therefore more efficient.”

Innovation in shipping

Our third guest speaker was Sue Terpilowski OBE, Managing Director, Image Line Communications and President of Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association UK Chapter. Sue began by outlining the ways that maritime sector is already pushing the boundaries of innovation, for example the introduction of container ships revolutionised the way that goods and maritime transport took place.

“These are exciting times for the shipping industry and there is lots of opportunity. Although autonomous ships will only account for about 30% of all shipping in the future, there will be many ways we can make ships semi-autonomous. And through great data collection and analysis we can make them more efficient and work better with the oceans’ ecosystems.”

Sue talked about some of the efficiency measures already in place, such as the use of drones to check quay-side maintenance in ports. She also discussed the innovative approach taken by port of Hamburg, which rescheduled it shipping timetable to better meet the needs of the city. “Instead of working in silos, which so often happens in shipping – the city and port authorities looked at the overall movement of traffic round the city and port. Using smart technology and a systems thinking approach they identified ways to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the city.”

The future of shipping will include innovations around; the type of fuel big ships use; increased use of sensors to gather data on weather conditions and logistics to enable enhanced efficiencies; and a greater systems thinking approach, looking at the industry and its impact on ports and cities as a whole, not on isolation. And finally but most importantly Sue believes in addressing the gender parity of the industry. 

STEM is so integral to the future of shipping, that with more women studying these disciplines, the opportunity is greater than ever to address the need for 50/50 split workforce and ensure a gender balance.

Our thanks to alumna Salma Suleyman (Mechanical Engineering MENg 2011, pictured second from the left below), a rail systems engineering manager with Jacobs for organising this event. “In engineering, the proportion of women is low, and the proportion of women in leadership roles is even lower. The Imperial Women’s Network is a fantastic network which facilitates relationships for the next stage of your career, providing high-quality information and support. The events provide global market knowledge relevant to all, and transfer knowledge between industries. I am very grateful to Imperial for funding the event and also to our speakers and attendees, whose participation raised the value of the event.”

Isobel Pollock-Hulf, (pictured second from the right) Master, Worshipful Company of Engineers (2016 – 2017), President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers (2012 – 2013) and also Imperial alumna (Department of Mechanical Engineering 1976) who attended the event said; “Providing engineering events in the city is so important and so tonight is a great example of how to bridge this gap and get the message of innovation in the sector out there.” And reflecting on her time at Imperial Isobel added;

I had no idea how it would have such a positive effect on my life to be able to say I went to Imperial.

The Imperial Women’s Network welcomes alumni from Imperial College London, and friends interested in advancing women’s leadership in business. They host several event thorough the year.

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Celia Pearce

About Celia Pearce

Alumni Communications Executive
Celia is responsible for all the communications to Business School alumni and this includes the monthly newsletter, alumni profiles and features, alumni blogs, event marketing, the website and social media. Please contact Celia if you have any queries regarding communications to alumni of the Business School.