The University of Southampton

ECS graduate heads UK's leading engineering body

Published: 13 October 2014

Many congratulations to Professor William Webb, ECS graduate and Visiting Professor, who began his term of office this month as President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Professor Webb, who is the youngest President of the IET for over 100 years, has held a number of senior positions in the IT and telecommunications sectors. He is currently CEO of the Weightless SIG, the standards body developing a new global M2M technology. He is also a Director at Webb Search, an independent wireless communications consultancy.

His President’s Address, delivered in London on 2 October, was entitled ‘From the iPhone to the IET’. Professor Webb explored the way that engineers have changed the world - with the iPhone providing a key tipping point for this transformation - and considered how their institutions can make the most of the new world they have brought about to build a platform fit for the next 150 years.

He said: 'It is an honour to become President of the IET, an organisation that I have been involved with for many years. As one of the world’s largest organisations for engineers and technicians, with nearly 160,000 members in 127 countries around the world, the IET is the UK’s most multidisciplinary engineering institution. This puts us in a strong position to deliver our vision of working to engineer a better world.'

Professor Webb was one of the founding directors of Neul, a company developing machine-to-machine technologies and networks, which was formed at the start of 2011. Prior to this he was a Director at Ofcom where he managed a team providing technical advice and performing research across all areas of Ofcom’s regulatory remit. He also led some of the major reviews conducted by Ofcom including the Spectrum Framework Review, the development of Spectrum Usage Rights and most recently cognitive or white space (refers to frequencies allocated to a broadcasting service but not used locally) policy. He worked for a range of communications consultancies in the UK in the fields of hardware design, computer simulation, propagation modelling, spectrum management and strategy development, as well as spending three years providing strategic management across Motorola’s entire communications portfolio, based in Chicago.

Outside of work, Professor Webb is a keen cyclist and has completed the Cent Cols Challenge in the Alps in 2010 and the Dolomites in 2012, and this summer a tougher version in the Alps involving an average of 130 miles a day, 16,000 feet of ascent and up to 8,000 calories of effort. He has published 13 books, over 100 papers, and 18 patents. He is a Visiting Professor at Surrey University and the University of Southampton, a Board member of Cambridge Wireless, a member of multiple oversight Boards and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the IEEE and the IET.

Professor Web began his engineering career at Southampton in 1986 and after completing his undergraduate degree in Electronic Engineering, he embarked on a PhD with Professor Ray Steele and also worked for his consultancy company part-time. He says on his University alumni profile: ‘That was the perfect start for me on a career in wireless communications, and my entire career direction can be traced back to my third-year Communications Module. Since then I’ve worked with some of the professors and lecturers on books and other initiatives. Some of the alumni in my year also continue to be pivotal – I ended up working with two at various times in my career and right now that first consulting company is a close partner in a current venture I’m leading.’

Asked about his future ambitions, he replied: ‘Becoming President of the Institute of Engineering & Technology has been a key ambition for many years. The IET is the largest engineering institution in the UK with over 160,000 members. It provides a professional home for life for engineers and influences key policy decisions on engineering matters.

‘I want to use my time there to update the Institution from one that looks back at its nearly 150-year heritage to one that embraces the new world of LinkedIn, Google Groups and open-source publications. I’d love to be seen as a President that helped re-define the role of Institutions such that they could play an increasingly major part in our world and become much more relevant to younger members. Being President will be so all-encompassing (especially as I’ll still have all my other roles) that I find it hard to focus on what my ambitions might be beyond that. I’d like to bridge the gap more between academia, Government and Industry. I’d like to continue pioneering the Weightless technology until it is well-established and there are plenty of cycling challenges still out there.’

Professor Neil White, Head of Electronics and Computer Science, paid tribute to Williams’s achievements. ‘It is a great honour for the University to have a Southampton graduate leading the UK’s leading professional body for engineering. William has already contributed a great deal to the communications industry, an area of research which is particularly important to ECS, and we wish him a great year in office, and look forward to his future achievements, not only at the IET, but to the world of engineering and education.’

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