Incoming IChemE president focuses on digital capabilities

Institution of Chemical Engineers

Monday, 15 May, 2017

John McGagh became fascinated with chemical engineering as a schoolboy during a vacation job on an oil and gas construction project in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. From there he began his professional journey, completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Bradford. He has extensive experience in chemical engineering, as well as roles in the commercial sector, business and strategy, global procurement, and research and development.

He transitioned from the chemical industry to the mining industry as head of innovation of Rio Tinto, the leading global mining and metals group. There he established and ran a $100m world-scale innovation program, forging close working relationships with universities in Australia, Canada, China, the US and the UK, sponsoring numerous PhD and masters candidates in chemical engineering.

Throughout his career John has undertaken a number of voluntary roles, including membership of the Minerals Down Under Sector Advisory Board and a former chair of the board of IChemE in Australia.

John McGagh’s Presidential Address, Chemical Engineers — Thriving in an Exponential World, explored the use of cognitive computing skills for organisations and businesses. He cited examples of how this digital revolution is being used in a range of innovative ways, including at the Australian oil and gas company Woodside, which is using cognitive computing to revolutionise the management and operation of its offshore platforms.

He concluded that collaboration between professionals utilising these digital capabilities will help advance chemical engineering worldwide.

During the address at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, McGagh said: “It is difficult to put into words how honoured I am to be addressing you today. For all of my working life I have been proud to identify myself as a chemical engineer. This great profession has provided me with the springboard that took me into a varied, global and extremely fulfilling career; to be asked to serve as IChemE president leaves me truly humbled.

“My commitment to you is that, during my time as president of this noble institution, I will strive to do justice to our mission: Advancing Chemical Engineering Worldwide.”

McGagh added: “IChemE has a vital role to play in helping its members and its stakeholders in industry, academia, research and in the regulatory sphere to seize the moment and take full advantage of the exponential world that we are living in. This is not a time of fear. This is a time of opportunity. And there is much work to be done.”

Ken Rivers, formerly the CEO of Refining NZ, a publicly listed company operating the country’s only oil refinery, was announced as deputy president and will succeed McGagh in May 2018.

McGagh’s Presidential Address was streamed live on 10 May, and it is now available to watch on IChemE’s Facebook page:

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