23rd December 2020

2020 – Being ingenious





  1. (of a person) clever, original, and inventive.
  2. (of a machine or idea) cleverly and originally devised and well suited to its purpose

Concluding our reflections on the unusual year that has been 2020, our Co-founding Director Stephen O’Malley talks about our value of being ingenious and how as engineers we pursue technical excellence, it’s crucial for us to be socially aware and emotionally intelligent. 

The degree of digitally driven disruption through 2020 has accelerated change that was already taking root. The impact of these new patterns however has presented a dynamic that is fertile territory for exploring, experimenting and driving positive change.

For our engineering fraternity, we must seize this opportunity.  It is our chance to shake off the risk aversion and calcification that is tied to the current fossil fuelled urban infrastructure networks of our towns and cities, paradigms that have their feet in the 1960s. These 2020 conditions are ripe to foster a culture of risk engagement, in which ingenuity can flourish. It means we can develop City scale initiatives and strategies to create places where more people have more opportunities and a greater desire to gather, meet and live. This, by extension will encourage investment, economic growth and increased residential demand.  This aspiration should be founded on a nature based approach to designing the City’s urban infrastructure so the natural environment is protected and enhanced and there is a real, meaningful concentration on the human experience of the city.

To achieve this, we, as engineers, need to be highly socially aware and emotionally intelligent. We need to recognise that decisions occur in complex political environments where multiple stakeholders, holding different values and conflicting goals, interact and make decisions together. We need to recognise that relationships overlap so being clear about what we want to achieve and the difference it will make to people’s lives is key, as is real public engagement. This means we need to weave together the demands of networks and components, of movement and place, of neighbourhoods, streets and buildings. Working collaboratively with board based design teams and co designing with a wide variety of statutory and local stakeholders to offer holistic designs, considering the composition and arrangement of the district, the routes and spaces that traverse them and the services, amenities and facilities that occupy them.

Delivering these type of high value outcomes requires engineers to change, adapt and evolve, placing the need for ingenuity as the platform for progress. Delivering this integrated, multi-layered and sophisticated urban landscape will call on engineers to have more courage, exercising emotional self-control, demonstrating adaptability, achievement orientation and all founded on a positive outlook. Furthermore we will need to develop our skills as advocates and influencers, equipping ourselves to identify and address conflict management through teamwork and inspirational leadership.

For many, the New Year is a new start. If we’re going to grab this opportunity and really make the difference and improvements to people’s wellbeing and health, while protecting the planet through our engineering, that we know we can, we’ve got to start by looking at ourselves and how we can be genuinely ingenious.

2020 – Being ingenious