NextGen Forum: Intergenerational collaboration to drive the future of concrete

1 October 2023
By Estelle Clapham

In July 2023, I assumed the role of Education Manager at SmartCrete CRC, and it has been an incredibly dynamic journey since then.

I have embraced the challenge of crafting an education strategy that provides unwavering support to our current PhD and Master students involved in various research projects, while also delving into the untapped potential of extending this support to external students.

Recently, SmartCrete CRC had the privilege of hosting the NextGen Forum at the Concrete Institute of Australia (CIA) Concrete 2023 conference.

An exceptional panel discussion which convened an assembly of five accomplished young professionals, each representing a different facet of the concrete industry: design, construction, supply and research. The conversation that unfolded, led by SmartCrete CRC’s CEO Clare Tubolets, proved to be profoundly enlightening, centred on the transformative potential of the next generation and their imminent impact on our field.

One of the most compelling aspects of the dialogue was the emphasis on the synergistic relationship between the Next-gen and the X-Gen, the Experienced Generation. It was elucidated how the intersection of fresh perspectives and seasoned expertise can give rise to a powerful dynamic. The fusion of youthful innovation and time-tested wisdom promises to be a catalyst for unparalleled advancements within the concrete industry.

Moreover, the panel discussion underscored the pivotal role of collaboration between academia and industry. Stories like the ones of Marie Joshua Tapas (GHD) and Arun Ravendran (Fortex), who both recently transitioned from academic pursuits to industry roles, resonated deeply with the audience. Their journeys exemplify the symbiotic relationship between research and development, illustrating how knowledge nurtured in the academic realm can bear fruit in the practical sphere. This revelation of the value of research in shaping industry leaders left an indelible impression on me and all those in attendance.

The buzz of the NextGen Forum reverberated throughout the conference, as attendees who attended this early morning session universally agreed it was one of the highlights of the entire event. The insights shared by the panellists resonated not only with the emerging talents looking to make their mark in the industry but also with the established X-Gen seeking to adapt and thrive in the evolving landscape of concrete technology.

I cannot deny that the NextGen Forum at Concrete 2023 was a watershed moment for me. Not only did it reveal the talent and enormous potential of the next generation, but it also illuminated the promise of intergenerational collaboration and underscored the significance of research-driven innovation in propelling the industry forward. I left the Forum invigorated, looking forward to engaging with SmartCrete CRC’s student cohort, finding opportunities for them to work with industry and shape the future of concrete technology. The NextGen Forum was a starting point and I eagerly anticipate the positive transformations it will engender within research partnerships and the broader concrete community.


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