The Royal Academy of Engineering this week plays host to the Council of Academies of Engineering and Technical Sciences (CAETS) annual meeting. More than 400 delegates from around the world will travel to Savoy Place in London, home of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, for the event.

The two-day conference boasts a glittering line-up of speakers, including a special message from Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates.

Each year, the CAETS conference brings together national engineering academies from across the globe.  This year’s theme, ‘Engineering a Better World’, explores the prominence of engineering in international development. A host of speakers will also offer practical guidance and support to both young and established academies.

Kicking the conference off is an opening address from Dr Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius and Amir Dossal, President and CEO of the UN Global Partnerships Forum.

Transforming lives

The first day will be broken into three sessions, each split into three fifteen-minute presentations. Taking to the stage first will be Professor He Huawu, Dr Jo Da Silva and Dr Mo Ibrahim.  All three will discuss the merits and pitfalls of working at scale, and show how engineering is transforming lives.

A senior engineer himself, Professor He Huawu is the Vice Chairman of the China Association of Science and Technology. With a wealth of experience in the transport industry, He Huawu has been instrumental in the roll out of high speed railways across China.

Dr Jo Da Silva has also spent much of her career connecting people and helping communities in developing countries tackle today’s big challenges. She is currently Director of International Development at Arup, and has contributed to improving the infrastructure of numerous cities as well as co-ordinating the construction of 60,000 disaster shelters following the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Rounding off the first round of talks is Dr Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.  Ibrahim began his career as an electrical engineer, working for a variety of telecommunications companies. He went on to found Celtel, an incredibly successful mobile phone operator in Africa, before selling up in 2006 and establishing the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to promote African development, with a special focus on promoting good governance in sub-Saharan Africa

Innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering

In keeping with the theme of transforming lives, the second session of the morning will cover innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering.

Jamila Abass is a software developer, CEO and founder of M-Farm who has gained recognition for using technology to empower African farmers. By using existing mobile phone technology, M-Farm links remote farmers to potential markets and provides them with real-time price information about their produce. This is helping small-scale subsistence farmers across rural Africa generate a profit and progress their business.

Dr Shashi Buluswar, CEO of the Institute for Transformative Technologies, also believes in using technology to combat global poverty. Through his work with the ITT, Buluswar is helping to bring to life tech solutions to everyday problems, from water security to energy to healthcare.

Delivering the final talk of the morning will be Dato’ Sri Idris Jala. Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia and CEO of PEMANDU, Idris Jala will be spearheading Malaysia’s transition towards high income status by 2020. Named by Bloomberg in 2014 as one of the ten most influential policy makers in the world, Idris Jala is known for his innovative management and a glittering track record in turning the tables on struggling companies.

Transforming engineering

The final session of the day will focus on transforming engineering, with insights from speakers across the field.

Dr Allyson Lawless is the Managing Director of South African Institute of Civil Engineering’s (SAICE) Professional Development and Projects team. She has led an outstanding career in civil engineering, becoming the first female president of SAICE in 97 years. Professional Development and Projects is a non-profit set up to promote skills development within civil engineering.

Adama University is one of two science and technology universities in Ethiopia. The second talk of the afternoon comes from university President, Professor Jang Gyu Lee.  An electrical engineer and academic, Gyu Lee has published more than 150 journal papers, and over 250 conference papers throughout his career.

Yassmin Abdel-Madied is a young mechanical engineer, social advocate and write, transforming engineering from within. Growing up in Australia, she advocates for the empowerment of youth, women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. At Just 16, Yassmin founded Youth Without Borders, enabling young people to work together to implement positive change within their communities and internationally.

Closing the spectacular opening day of CAETS 2016 will be a special, pre-recorded message from Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.

For more information about the CAETS conference, visit the Royal Academy of Engineering or follow @RAEngNews on twitter.

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