Institution news

'Inside Track' - latest update from our President

Terry Spall, President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Terry Spall outside One Birdcage Walk
Terry Spall outside One Birdcage Walk

Welcome to the latest edition of "Inside Track", providing regular updates on the Institution's Trustee Board activities.

In this report, I would like to share with you some of the items discussed at our April and May Trustee Board meetings and a few other items which I felt would be of interest to our active member community.

This will be my final Inside Track as I hand over the Presidency to Peter Flinn at our Annual Meeting on the 26 May. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to briefly reflect on what has been a very unusual and challenging year, with 3 major ‘extra ordinary’ situations for the Trustee Board to deal with. These were: the wrapping up of the aftermath of the 2018 situation, the implementation of the governance reforms, and the coronavirus pandemic. Any one of these would significantly impact a normal presidential year, but three occurring concurrently created an unprecedented workload for the whole team. But despite all of these challenges, very significant progress has been made.

It was certainly good fortune that I had such a strong Trustee Board, who have worked tirelessly through this year supporting a total of 18 board meetings, when we had just 8 scheduled. It is a tough existence as a trustee, being under constant scrutiny, and I think many forget that they are members elected by the membership to govern the Institution. 

The Governance Review process is concluding this month after running for over 2 years. Dr Kerry Mashford and her Implementation Group (IG) have done an exemplary job and I commend her and the IG team for all they have done for the Institution. There are many jewels in the crown of our new approach to governance, one that has particularly impressed me and been well received by our members has been the new Nominations Committee (NOMCO) – it has opened up the Institution allowing many members who wanted to be more closely involved in the running of the Institution a chance to do so, in an open and fair manner. My thanks to Isobel Pollock-Hulf, who is the chair of NOMCO, and her team. Their work has already had a huge positive impact.

In the last Inside Track, I mentioned that we had recently, successfully completed our 5 year licence review with the Engineering Council. This month I can add to that by conveying the excellent news that the Institution of Mechanical Engineers registered the most professional engineers in the UK in 2020. This is the 9th successive year we have achieved this and is a fine testament to the staff/member team that progress registrations and of course to our new members who made the choice to join us.

Very soon we will see Dr Alice Bunn take up office as our new CEO and I would like to wish her every success. In doing so I must also recognize the outstanding contribution we have had from our interim CEO Dr Colin Brown over the last 3 years – my sincere thanks to Colin for all he has done for the Institution. He isn’t leaving us quite yet, but this is my final chance to publicly thank him for his service to the Institution and to wish him every success in the future.

So, it is time for me to sign off. I feel we are now in a position where the ship is stable and pointing in the right direction and ready to embark on a new journey, with the course ahead being informed by a new strategic plan, which will allow us to really make a difference for our members, our profession and demonstrably improve the world through engineering. I would like to wish incoming President, Peter Flinn, every success in his year at the helm of our fine Institution.

Business Plan for 2021

Most of the business plan KPI’s were ‘green’ at the end of Q1, indicating a positive start to the year.  Membership applications were strong and ahead of 2020.  Encouragingly CEng and Fellow applications were both seeing a resurgence following two successful promotional campaigns. A recent member/staff survey on values and behaviours has generated over 600 responses thus far, providing some useful feedback to the Values Team. Digital platform workstreams continue to progress with the MPDS Rebuild workstream now going through external testing. Website login improvements have now gone live and work on Committee Management (Member Engagement) and Digital Welcome packs are progressing well. The new Mentor Forum is also gaining traction with over 80 members joining the first session. Also, very encouraging to see that all ‘Challenge’ events: Railway, UAS and Formula Student are planning to host live events this year, with virtual elements for those who cannot travel. As an indicator of our membership engagement, in March we had over 3000 attendees at member organised events.

Finances: End Q1

Q1 was better than budget, albeit versus a quite pessimistic but prudent budget. Costs were well managed and subsidiary company performance better than budgeted but still in recovery following the impact of the pandemic. Q2 budget assumed levels of activity starting to return towards normal levels but this is a risk and it depends on how quickly and effectively we come out of lockdown – will people be willing to attend physical events?  At this stage Q2 was expected to be below budget but the end of year forecast is still being held.

Trustee Board’s Report and Annual Accounts (TBR&AA)

As many of you will no doubt be aware, unfortunately we have been late in issuing our Annual Report this year. It was published on our website on the 14 May (9 days later then required). The late release was caused by two factors; firstly the audit process normally benefits from the formation of a data room where documents can be easily accessed and scrutinised and face to face meetings held to clarify understanding and provide additional information. Due to the COVID restriction, this has had to be done entirely virtually, and it has taken longer than expected. Also, this year we have a new auditor (BDO) and they have done an extensive root and branch review of our financial management and reporting. This has involved in some aspects going back over 10 years and again this has taken longer than we expected but has produced a very high level of confidence in the figures. Some unanticipated prior period adjustments have been needed to the financial statements but, on the positive side, it provides a very solid foundation for future audits.

Despite the late delivery of the TBR&AA, we are still intending to proceed with our Annual Meeting on the 26 May. However, we are keen to ensure our members don’t suffer any detriment by not having the full 21 days specified by our By-Laws to read and consider its contents. We have therefore decided to extend the time available for members to consider the information and so will now keep the ballot for adoption of the TBR&AA open until the 5 June. It will be discussed at the Annual Meeting, but we will not be holding an adoption vote at the meeting. Further information is available here.

COP-26: Global UN Climate Change Conference being held in the UK later this year

Paul Jones (Chair of our Technical Strategy Board) and Ross O’Brien (Trustee) have been developing a plan for the Institution to participate in COP-26 later this year. They presented a paper to the board in April outlining their engagement plan, which includes working collaboratively with the ICE and IET and leverages our HQ proximity to government by staging a two-day hybrid event there during the conference. The proposal and budget were both approved.

Strategy Committee update

President Elect Peter Flinn presented a paper giving an update of the work being done by the newly formed Strategy Committee. They have already engaged widely across the institution and also started to form views on many of the challenges facing society including: The decarbonisation of energy production, transport and material production, the responsible extraction and use, re-use and disposal of materials and the integration of traditional engineering with software, intelligence and digital technologies. They are also considering future challenges of the Professional Engineering Institutions, for example, in being a single voice for engineering and the international recognition of professional registration. The initial work plan mapped out by the committee, for delivery of first proposals by September, was approved.

India Business Plan

International Trustee Vijay Raman presented a new business plan for the Institution in India, which would extend over 5 years, including a number of initiatives to grow much stronger engagement with Indian industry and government as well as growing our membership numbers. The approach being proposed is different to previous and utilises local resources more effectively. The plan, if successful, will see steady and sustainable growth for the Institution in India. The proposal was approved, subject to it being initially funded through funds already held in India and further operational and financial impact assessments being completed.

One Birdcage Walk

The member consultation process is progressing well. My thanks to all those members who have expressed their views and contributed their own thoughts and ideas. The Real Estate Strategy Group (RESG) are collating all of this and continuing to progress the feasibility and conceptual design for our London HQ building. More information will be available soon, as the project progresses to a full member ballot over the coming months. More information can be found on our website.

Governance Review Conclusion

A special Trustee Board meeting was held on the 18 May with the sole purpose of assessing the completion status of the Governance Review recommendations. It was held together with the Implementation Group (IG). Dr Kerry Mashford, IG Chair, presented a status report indicating that the majority of recommendations have now been implemented. A number of those outstanding will be completed if the Royal Charter and By Laws changes are approved by members in the current ballot that is underway. We have two aspects however that are still open and which require more time to implement effective changes, that will go on beyond the existence of the IG and will be dealt with by dedicated task and finish groups set up for that purpose. These are 1) culture, values and behaviours and 2) communications. 

Most Board and Committees now have revised Terms of Reference (TOR) approved by the Trustee Board, many of these being approved at the April/May meetings including: Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Technical Strategy Board, Trustee Board Awards Committee, and the Engineering Heritage Committee.

Further action was required on the following TOR’s: Young Members Board and the Finance Board and the PEP Ltd Board which require minor modification, and these will be brought back to the June board. Regional Strategy Board and Council TOR’s have several unresolved aspects and further meetings will be held to debate these outstanding issues.

A close out report is now being prepared by the IG and this will be completed in June and made available to all members.

A Governance Manual is also being prepared and the structure of this is now agreed. It will be a factual and impartial record of the changes that have been implemented, referencing back to the original recommendations, indicating clearly where recommendations could not be implemented as written in the Governance Review Report, with an explanation as to why this wasn’t possible and the alternative solution that has been progressed. The Manual will be completed by year end and again will then be accessible to all members.

As you will appreciate, the whole Governance Review process has been a monumental task and the Institution is indebted to those members and staff who have worked so hard over the last 2 years to deliver this transformation. The Institution is now, very much a member led organisation, as our founders intended and is in good shape for the future. The changes have been far reaching in many ways and positions the Institution as a new benchmark in PEI governance.  


Well, I hope you found the above to be of interest. As always, your feedback is welcome. You can reach me on, or if you have some specific feedback on the topics above please use

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Terry Spall

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