Scott Steedman CBE FREng, Director-General Standards at BSI responded on behalf of the guests and offered the toast to the health of the Company. Introducing the Master’s theme of ‘Challenging Boundaries’ by reference to the work of the great lighthouse engineer, Robert Stevenson in the early 1800s, he described how engineering advances in shipping had led UK engineers to take a leadership role in the creation of international standards for the electrotechnical sector, to which the Master herself has contributed her own expertise throughout her career.

He explained that despite the UK’s early interest in setting international standards, the subject of standards is not well understood today in the profession, or in academia or government. Commitment has waned through a lack of education, and this has reduced capacity to deliver the true benefit of this vital tool for UK companies, government and society. Increasing the strategic use of standards is vital for the future. The pandemic has accelerated innovation across the economy. The digital economy is now universal. Net Zero has become a business imperative for chief executives, a complete change from three years ago. Geopolitical tensions have transformed the world and raised the importance of standards to new levels.

Scott Steedman speech

International standards have become a common language that all industries need to use, whether global or local. What matters is that British industries: medical devices, food, data, manufacturing, financial services companies use the same standards as other countries, he argued. For the UK, this means standards based on British practices and British values, not just quality and safety, but modern slavery, anti-bribery, and ethics.

There has never been a more important time to get involved in this battle for global influence and soft power.

Scott paid tribute to the Master for her work in international standardization. He noted that she recently received an IEC 1906 Award and has been an exemplar of British engineering, representing her profession, her industry and her country in international standards. Thanking her on behalf of the National Standards Body, he encouraged members of the Company and guests to use their networks to advocate the importance of standards as part of every engineer’s career development.

In closing, Scott stressed that engineering is a way of thinking about the world, not just about making things work. We need to challenge our own boundaries if we are to succeed. We have a duty to serve.