Log in to the online community

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in
How does IET define Innovation to meet CEng Standards
Shijo Joseph Vadakkekunnel 1100192287
Joined 26/07/2013 - 4 Posts
I am hoping that the senior PRAs can guide me to better understand the definiton of Innovation and what is expected to meet CEng Standards. My personal interpretation is that Innovation is any new product, new process or new idea.

As a person working as a Construction Manager building critical infrastructure projects, i dont make complex calculations or use complex softwares for analysis apart from using Planning tools like MS Project or Primavera . Hence it is important for me to understand what constitutes Innovation to meet the CEng standard. I have plenty of examples to demonstrate innovation but for this particular instance I am using an example where I developed a planning tool (Excel sheet) where it estimates the optimal utilisation of construction resources by extrapolating data from the characteristics that i analysed in the project life cycle and evaluated each projects. I am not giving full detail here for confidetiality. This innovation could be seen in the eyes of a Rocket Scientist as trivial since it does not do complex calculations or no patents involved. However, in the eyes of my business or working in my sector could be seen as Innovation as this is a new product which improves efficiency in working.

By textbook defintion of the UKSPEC A2 competency, they have made it ambigous by choosing very few scenarios and saying "could include an ability " rather than "should include an ability " leaving it to the reviewer for subjective interpretation.

Engage in the creative and innovative development of engineering technology and continuous improvement systems.

This could include an ability to: 
' Assess market needs and contribute to marketing strategies
' Identify constraints and exploit opportunities for the development and transfer of technology within own chosen field
' Promote new applications when appropriate
' Secure the necessary intellectual property (IP) rights
' Develop and evaluate continuous improvement systems.

I spoken to PRA on this and receieved his response that contradicted the PRI conclusion. Since i have already been told by IET Professional Registration Team that the PRA is only to advice and their advice does not mean this can be accepted by the review committee, I believe that this is the right forum to raise the query as it makes clearer for everyone similar to my position where the definition is vague.
12 Replies
Roy Pemberton 11001202930
Joined 01/12/2017 - 317 Posts
Hi Shijo,
to put a couple of things straight,  you won't have been rejected by a PRI prior to interview, it will be a pre- interview assessor,  PRIs only conduct interviews and the purpose of the pre- interview assessment is to ensure that,  pre- interview, there is a prima facie case in your written application to indicate that you may meet the requirements and should therefore proceed to interview.  The one item which is already confirmed during that process is knowledge and understanding and the interviewers' role in that respect is purely to validate the k&u claimed as being real and your own understanding.
All remaining competencies lie completely with the interviewers to determine at interview, but the prior assessment is to avoid wasting everybody's time if you don't appear to demonstrate that prima facie case on paper. 

Alasdair has covered the point well that both assessors and interviewers can only judge on what's presented to them,  though assessors will usually come back to you to indicate areas where additional evidence is required if they feel there's any room for doubt,  plus will, for areas in which they are less certain,  recommend took the interviewers areas that particularly need probing. 
Furthermore,  interviewers are trained and judged competent to probe and draw from you,  so far as they can,  evidence if it exists in areas they feel may not have been adequately addressed so far.  If we feel, during the interview,  that there's an area of competence that hasn't yet been adequately demonstrated,  we will do our level best to draw that out and help you to present yourself in the best light. 
Alasdair has also touched on the drawbacks of criteria that are too precise,  the judgement this affords to the interviewers generally working in your favour for exactly the reasons you outline.
Having said that,  I mentioned the upcoming reissue of UKSPEC and,  as I said,  the issues you mention do appear to have been taken very fully on board,  the advance briefing detail very specifically mentions clarifying guidance and examples of managing complexity, for instance,  though from memory I think it also mentioned the same for innovation. 
No,  people in your situation are not uncommon at all and I,  for one,  have worked in construction as well as design,  maintenance and project management.  This has also been true for most PRIs I have met/ interviewed with,  so we understand the situation and appreciate the areas in which you have opportunity to manage either innovation or complexity or both,  so would usually draw that out.
I obviously can't comment on why the assessor in your case didn't feel there was that prima facie case for progressing you to interview and I believe (though can't guarantee I'm right) that you could ask for detailed feedback on what evidence is felt to be lacking - you shouldn't consider this as failure as such,  it's only an indication that the assessor has not yet seen the evidence required, thus I believe you have the opportunity to provide further evidence that may address that.  I've certainly had applications reach me as interviewer where that has happened. 
If,  having gone though that you still have a decline that your PRA feels is unjustified,  you may be justified to wonder whether your PRA is right or providing the right guidance on whether your presentation is suitably convincing.  I can't know if that's the case or not in your case,  but you've seen how Alasdair would deal with this,  so that's at least one PRA who would proactively help you to hone your presentation in your application,  and I know this would be what most PRAs I know would do.  It could be worth asking for a different PRA, not necessarily because yours is wrong,  but because it would give you a second opinion.
I'm not entirely sure how the allocation of assessors works,  but I think that,  if you reapplied, the chances are you'd get a different assessor which may change the outcome if the problem was of the assessor not really understanding the relevance of your evidence.  But ultimately,  as Alasdair says,  it's much better if you can very clearly demonstrate the needs you had identified for which your tool provided the solution and the process by which you came up with the tool so that the assessor can see it readily.  That's where,  as Alasdair said,  your PRA should be able to guide you. 
I hope this helps you to get a clear plan of action and wish you more success on this occasion. 
Roy Pemberton 11001202930
Joined 01/12/2017 - 317 Posts
Couple of (for me) last points directed at different contributors:

Firstly, Simon,  yes,  I did guess that having exchanged views previously,  but I felt it important to clarify it for Shijo's benefit and others in his position

Secondly,  James,  excellent deeper detail on the pre interview assessment process,  I'd not previously been sure of that detail. 

But finally,  and most importantly,  for Shijo,  I think that James ' information underlines a big part of what I'm trying to convey to you - we do all work really hard between us to give everybody every opportunity to present their evidence of competence,  helping to draw it out when it isn't immediately apparent and with cross checks to avoid the possibility of individual bias or lack of appreciation of your situation.  In fairness,  though we are always allocated to you to be from your industry and discipline,  subtleties such as design v construction are not always reflected,  but,  as I said previously,  most of us have a broad brush experience.  Believe me,  however much you may feel otherwise,  we're all rooting for you and the checks and balances usually minimise the possibility of a bad decision.  

Whilst I don't want to diminish your suitability one jot,  I simply don't have the detail to do so and it wouldn't be appropriate to do so on here,  even if I did,  I'm pretty convinced that,  regardless of what your PRA thought,  for the assessors to not progress you to interview,  there must have been some evidence they felt was missing.  It almost certainly won't be that they don't understand the innovative nature of the processes or tool that you developed, or that developing and implementing a tool to optimise the construction process isn't considered innovative,  they will almost certainly have felt there was inadequate evidence.  As I said previously,  we can all only go on the evidence provided,  much as we may try our best to tease it out,  and I'm afraid,  ultimately,  however much we all want to help you,  presenting your evidence is ultimately down to you.  Sorry if that sounds harsh,  but it's the reality. After all,  presenting compelling cases is part of the communication competencies required by UKSPEC, and moreover, importantly a crucial part of professional engineering. 

I must also stress that, though. PRAs are there to help you as they can,  they cannot be considered to be part of a prequalification stage,  nor can they be considered an arbiter when you don't get the result both of you thought likely.  

Regarding your repeated point about feeling that the requirements should be more prescriptive,  Alasdair explained the down side of that,  too prescriptive and our hands are tied.  As i mentioned,  i understand that the forthcoming update to UKSPEC does seek to improve the clarity,  but we - and I assure you that includes you - don't want it too prescriptive or our hands will be tied and we'll have to make decisions that may well be highly unpopular as we will be denied that judgement that allows us to deal with the less black and white cases. 

After all,  let's compare it to what we deal with as engineers every day.  We have standards - company standards,  British Standards,  European Standards,  International Standards,  and legislation.  They are very rarely prescriptive,  they are written to define essential parameters and requirements but provide freedom,  within the confines of minimum levels of quality, safety,  etc. for us to make engineering judgements- if they didn't,  our hands would be tied and anybody who could read would be able to do our job.  It's no different when it comes to the standard for a Chartered or Incorporated Engineer.  We need the ability to form a judgement or applications could be dealt with by an algorithm. 

So I suggest you give some critical thought to why the innovative nature of what you did failed to be apparent to your assessors and maybe hold on to see what the forthcoming new issue of UKSPEC comes out with, though I believe that,  as you said,  between us I think we've given you some strong pointers. 

I wish you the best next time round. 
James Walker 62455
Joined 14/01/2008 - 21 Posts
Hi Guys - just to clear up one or two issues (having read everybody's responces) - it isn't a single person doing the Pre PRI assessment it is two qualified Assessors and a Moderator/Registrar that undertake these assessments. The IET staff do their upmost to ensure that the Panel is drawn from Engineers that are familiar with your discipline. Often where things are unclear in an application the Panel can ask for: - further information on a set category or a few or a full competence statement across the board. They can pose a Targeted Question which they will compose and usually set a word limit - 500/1000 words.

In my experience on PRI Panels, discussions will have taken place using the RPS system and where an application is lacking there is usually a lot more discussion as to how they should proceed. Where an application is declined the staff will usually give details of what was lacking as advised by the Panel. To be honest more time is spent on an application that is declined.

As a PRA I always offer these basic tips - every paragraph starts with "I" and doing it is better than being responsible for it (especially in A & B) (we've all worked for those who are responsible for it!) Check against the UK Spec schedules at the back of the book and ensure that all 17 competence are covered in the application. Ensure CPD and Ethics are covered and include a Development Action Plan and an organisation diagram that is clear and doesn't show the entire organistaion - one or two levels above and all those that report directly and indirectly (don't forget contractors). 

Once you get through this lot then your presentation should be a subject that you know inside out and back to front and be prepared to get all sorts of questions from the PRI panel (usually two engineers again within your field of expertise). I always suggest that you try it out on a colleague who can challenge you on it - that may bring about further editing. When I have interviewed there have been occasions where the entire interview revolves around the presentation - which can be good - if we can get the answers we need to complete the PRI report which is done immediately following the interview.

Then another Panel, again 3 volunteers same make up as before but different personnel, go through the application again and the interview report to enable them to ratify the Interview Panel's recommendation. So you see that if you include your PRA some nine volunteers are involved in your application so very little is left to chance.

If you have a security problem in describing any element I suggest you seek advice from your superiors and I will say that all assessors will not discuss anything that is revealed that may have a security element if advised, including commercial and military details. Anyway best of luck with your reapplication.
Simon Barker 22060613
Joined 17/09/2001 - 608 Posts

Roy Pemberton:
Simon,  well yes,  kind of.......
But saying "wrote best practice" is a litke exaggerated.  Innovation could just as well be taking best practice (potentially written by others) and applying it in an alternative application,  scenario or industry. 

Yes, I was exaggerating it somewhat.  You could just as well argue that re-writing a company process to improve quality and efficiency is innovation.
Shijo Joseph Vadakkekunnel 1100192287
Joined 26/07/2013 - 4 Posts
Hi Simon,

There are many one liners to say what makes it to be CEng but it is the detail that i am looking for. Competencies and Objectives should be SMART - Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time bound. The issue here is that the specific requirement and how that is measured is something that can be interpreted. When someone who are in the boundary line of meeting a requirement which could be viewed in either ways depending on how you say it and how the receiver understand and interprets the wording through  his experience, it can go either ways.
I have not claimed in my application that working on a project as an example of Innovation. I used two examples in my application that was viewed acceptable in the eyes of the PRA but not to the person who reviewed my application.
I do understand the difficulty when it comes to the PRA as he needs to use his professional judgement to allign with the IET and Eng Council Requirement.
I received very good advice for yourselves and thankful to the PRAs for taking their time and effort to explain. But I would be happier to see it coming from the guidance notes and that it be updated with the same points made from discussion in various topics. While going through his forum, I saw couple of good points which I admit that I never checked prior to making the application since i believed that the guidance notes, UKSPEC, IET CEng competency requirements, PRA advice will suffice. I have seen detailed discussion and interpretation of requirements which would have been easier if it cames as official guidance.
Roy Pemberton 11001202930
Joined 01/12/2017 - 317 Posts
Incidentally,  I meant to mention in my earlier reply to Shijo that engineering management is not about budget - its about providing direction, support,  encouraging, developing and maintaining professional standards and,  as he says,  managing complexity.  I would suggest that one definition of complexity in this context is where there isn't one single approach and decision making is required to select the best approach.  It's possibly not the only definition though,  and that returns to the reason why interviewers need to be able to make a judgement. But one thing it isn't is budget,  signing timesheets,  or even allocating tasks,  unless that is coupled with engineering support, guidance and decision making,  not forgetting that you can delegate authority,  but not responsibility. 
Roy Pemberton 11001202930
Joined 01/12/2017 - 317 Posts
Simon,  well yes,  kind of.......
But saying "wrote best practice" is a litke exaggerated.  Innovation could just as well be taking best practice (potentially written by others) and applying it in an alternative application,  scenario or industry. 
You'd need to show that it had been fully thought through (by you!) to check that it's an appropriate transfer of best practice,  is done for a reason (to produce a measurable benefit), that all aspects of how it's transferred,  how feasible,  effective,  safe and all the other things we,  as engineers assure, it is in the new application,  applying adjustments if necessary,  and evaluated throughout its introduction and at completion to confirm the desired benefit has been achieved and engineering assurance achieved. 
It wouldn't be sufficient to just copy and paste. 
That's not necessarily exhaustive,  but it's one example of innovation that I, at least,  would accept. 
Of course,  it could be argued that,  by doing so,  you have now defined/ written best practice for the new application, but it's important not to block out potential candidates by leaving then thinking the bar is higher than it really is, and I feel using the phrase "wrote best practice" threatens to do that
Simon Barker 22060613
Joined 17/09/2001 - 608 Posts
When I was going through the whole process, one thing I took from reading UKSPEC and the guidance was that:-
  • In Incorporated Engineer knows how to follow industry best practice.
  • A Chartered Engineer is the one who wrote the industry best practice.
Just working on big projects doesn't make you a CEng.  You need to be able to show how you innovated - did something new or better than was done before.

I ended up settling for IEng, as I have a natural aversion to management.  At that time, management, in some sense of that word, was a key requirement for CEng as defined in UKSPEC, even though the ECUK kept saying that CEng was for practicing engineers and IEng for engineering managers.
Shijo Joseph Vadakkekunnel 1100192287
Joined 26/07/2013 - 4 Posts
Hi Alasdair,

Thanks for your reply. My application was supported by two CEng qualified managers and a PRA. However my application was rejected by the PRI after submitting the application and before the interview which frustrated the hell out of me. Rather than giving me the opportunity to provide specific information during the application, they rejected it. This is after myself going through many Professional Regisration Workshops (At least 4 workshops in my local network), speaking to PRAs and working on the Career Manager for the last 5 years.
The disappointing part is that they said my application did not show technical leadiership involving complexity. I build 400KV, 275KV & 132KV substations and cable networks as a Construction Manager for an Electrical Transmission Operator and for a PRI to say that my technical leadership is not complex is disappointing. I manage projects as a Principal Contractor and we do the detailed design. Although my application said what i did clearly, but this did not satisfy them. I think they wanted to see budget or more greater complex scenarios which i would have given them if they asked me. More worrying is that they would not let me discuss with the PRI after the rejection and they asked me to speak to the same PRA who said that my application was strong. When i spoke of the rejection soon after i heard from the IET, i contacted the  PRA  who said that this is strange and a first for him in the last three years of PRA. After that i tried contacting him and he would not reply. 
I raised my disappointment in the process to the Professional Registration Team and they were kind enough to redo my application free of cost. But i will have to write the full application and go through the whole vetting again through the PRA and CEng supporters. They informed me that they will find me a new PRA which i am waiting.
I am Electrical disciplined working in an Electrical Utility building electrical assets which involves civil, electrical and mechanical works. Surely there will be other candidates like me who have the same scenario. But i have noticed that in my 10 years of working in the substation construction, i have never seen a CEng qualified site management or construction management staff gained through the IET although the work requires technical knowledge and leadership. However i have seen many who gained CEng through ICE / IMechE. 
Alasdair Anderson 11001195585
Joined 02/02/2017 - 951 Posts
I can't deny that the IET guidance is at times a bit vague, but it is complicated by them having to make the guidance fit a far greater range of candidates (in terms of their engineering) than probably any other Institute. The ICE can afford to be precise since all their candidates will have roughly similar backgrounds, but trying put together advice to fit anything from someone like yourself dealing with Civil Engineering projects to someone doing computer modelling of fluid dynamics is, to say the least, a challenge.
Precise guidance can also be a drawback, as it removes the ability of interviewers like Roy to be able to use their own judgement and accept candidates who might not meet a rigidly defined criterion.
From the final paragraph of your first post it appears that you have been through an interview and been rejected on A2 due to lack of innovation but your post result discussion with a PRA has come to a different conclusion. As a PRA myself I can say that I have seen a good number of 'rejections' and quite often the grounds have been 'lack of innovation' which on discussion with the candidate has generally seemed to me to be a bit harsh, but you must remember that you not only need to meet Competences A1 & A2, but you need to convince the interviewers that you meet them. With candidates I am advising up to interview I often suggest certain aspects of a project they have been involved in that they need to make sure they cover in their discussions with the interviewers. In your case it would have been your planning tool, the fact that there was lack of a suitable tool previously, and the impact it had on the project (not much different to what Roy has said, but if you mention the tool without explaining the context, the interviewers will not realise its importance).
One more thing I will say as a PRA having had failed candidates referred, the decision has been arrived at by the interviewers based on what was said at the interview. There are only three people who know what was said in the room, the two interviewers and the candidate, so any advice from the PRA can only be based on the information he has been provided by the IET and yourself and I am sure that even you will have trouble remembering exactly what was said. It is therefore impossible for the PRA to be in a position to say for certain that "the interviewers got it wrong" on the day. All he/she can say is the competence appears to have been met and you ought to have been able to demonstrate this to the interviewers.
Shijo Joseph Vadakkekunnel 1100192287
Joined 26/07/2013 - 4 Posts
Hi Roy,

Thanks for your detailed reply. Yes, you got my name right.  It makes sense what you say.

This is where i dont understand why Engineering Council or IET are not willing to be clear and honest on interpreting their requirements. If the UKSPEC is unclear then IET certainly has the opportunity to make the requirements more clear through their guidance. As you said, this is one of the most misunderstood terms then IET should clearly know there is a problem here and this needs to be clarified. The issue is that the PRA may have a different opinion as there is no formal paper to say what is required.

It is like in the Career Manager where they say under the "Responsibilities" you are not supposed to write your responsibilities but what you did. This is contradicting the header. There are many areas of contradiction or ambigous terms which i have seen because i have been working on my application for the past 5 years.  Dont get me wrong, things have improved but it is still not there yet. I have seen ICE where they are more precise in what they are looking for.

Roy Pemberton 11001202930
Joined 01/12/2017 - 317 Posts
Hi Shijo (hope I've got that right - apologies if not).
I'm a PRI, but that means I get to form a judgement on whether there is evidence of 'innovation', so hopefully you will find my response helpful. 
i totally understand the need for your question and I think this is one of the most misunderstood terms in UKSPEC and the whole distinction between C.Eng & I.Eng, so I'll try to answer your question as best I can.  
What it isn't necessarily,  though could be,  is r&d, creating totally new products or invention.  Obviously,  those would fit the bill,  but this is really about engineering innovation,  and that word engineering is all important, it includes the type of activities you apply in construction management, providing you are developing the construction methodology,  not just applying a process dictated by somebody else.  It means looking at a requirement or problem and,  as distinct from simply applying tried and tested solutions,  identifying alternative approaches.  It could be using a product or engineering solution tried and tested in other situations/ applications and using them in a new application,  or the converse,  applying an alternative approach/ product to a requirement/ problem that has  previously been addressed in a different way.  
Of course,  it shouldn't be just for the sake of it - it should deliver a benefit,  so it could reduce cost,  provide either a better quality or more cost effective solution, improve safety,  etc. 
In a construction context,  this could mean an improved construction methodology,  especially if this reduces cost,  improves safety and/ or improves quality or the ability to provide engineering assurance.  
in honesty,  though I'd want to understand more detail, so don't take this as a definite,  the example you quote, identifying a new planning tool to optimise use of construction resources sounds like a great example of what I would judge to be innovation.  If you've even designed the tool yourself,  so much the better, but  that isn't even essential,  it could be sufficient that you've taken best practice from elsewhere and applied it in a new scenario if it improves construction process or use of resources. 
So I guess a non- exhaustive checklist could include any of the following:
Identifying the best approach to a totally new requirement
Finding a more cost effective approach to an existing requirement by applying a new process (which may or may not have been used in other situations)
Improving safety by doing the same. 
Finding a way to improve programme by doing the same. 
Improving quality or engineering assurance by doing the same. 
But the important points are that it must deliver an identifiable benefit and it must be your own work.  
Hope that helps. 
There is a new version of UKSPEC on its way through,  and though I still have to see the detail,  the advance information does give promise that some of these grey areas will be made clearer. 


Log in

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in