At the time of writing, we are at the point in the year where we are beginning to see the signs of spring with warmer and brighter weather on its way. It also marks the one-year anniversary since the full impact of the pandemic first hit us all. Whilst there is still some way to go, for most of us there is now a sense of real hope for a pathway out of the pandemic.
As the vaccines roll out across societies around the world, thoughts from our political leaders are focused on the rebuilding of our economies. In all cases our sector will play a central role in the coming years.
Many of us do not want to return to the old ways of doing things prior to the pandemic but want to use this crisis as an opportunity to start afresh, addressing our longer-term challenges in sustainability and decarbonisation.
Resetting is a chance to think differently and to develop innovative new processes and products to support future sustainable growth. As someone who has spent a lifetime in the industry, I am proud that we have a real heritage of engaging, adopting and driving change in the use of technologies and operational processes, as well as in our behaviours and attitudes too.
Within individual organisations there is a drive to develop new products and processes for competitive advantage or to improve performance through efficiency savings. As an industry and a profession, we also come together in order to develop improvements that benefit all of us working in the sector, most obviously in health and safety.
The Institute itself has been an innovator over the years, introducing the professional exams and distance learning courses and supporting the development of our profession. At the end of 2018 IQ launched its ‘Creating Future Leaders’ strategy. One of the key objectives within the strategy was a commitment to support the industry in driving innovation and best practice through collaboration and research.
Our partners at the Centre for Mineral Products, the Institute of Asphalt Technology (IAT) and the Concrete Society, along with the Institute, will be hosting a roundtable to discuss areas of research and innovation that can support the broader industry. The roundtable will build on some of the initiatives seen through the centre’s Honours programme.
The products we are developing as an industry are making strides in reducing our impact in areas such as climate change, but we all recognise that we need to do more. Managing our use of energy and resources will continue to be at the forefront of our innovations. Renewable energy, electrification and the use of hydrogen are likely to form part of our roadmap over the next decade as we move away from our dependence on fossil fuels.
We will also continue to manage our resources in the pursuit of improved reuse of our materials within the circular economy. Finding a balance between the need for the necessary primary materials, whilst maximising the use from our recycled products.
In driving our product innovation, it will remain critical that we continue to underpin these with our health, safety and wellbeing agenda through organisations such as the Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC).
There is much that we can be optimistic about in the coming months and years, but for the current time stay safe and well.