Published: 08 May 2017

Chemical engineer and environmental analyst Professor Roland Clift awarded top honour by professional body

The University of Surrey is proud to announce that Professor Roland Clift has been awarded the highest honour of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, the George E Davis Medal. Read on to discover over half a century of one individual’s outstanding contributions to chemical engineering and his tireless efforts in securing a sustainable future for our planet.

Professor Roland Clift, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Technology in the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), has been awarded the George E Davis Medal by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). The Medal, named in honour of the founding father of Chemical Engineering, is the highest award conferred by the IChemE. It is awarded to “an eminent individual who has rendered service to chemical engineering” and was last awarded in 2011.

Half a century of engineering a more sustainable future

Roland Clift’s career in chemical engineering spans more than 50 years. He graduated from Cambridge in 1964 and obtained a PhD at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) in 1970 for research on particle-fluid systems. This remained his main research area for the next 20 years.

Following appointments at McGill University, Imperial College London, and the University of Cambridge, Roland joined the University of Surrey as a Professor of Chemical Engineering and Head of the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering in 1981.

His growing interest in the application of engineering principles to environmental issues led him to establish the University’s trans-disciplinary Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES, recently renamed Centre for Environment and Sustainability) in 1992. He acted as its Director for 13 years.

Through the Centre, he was an active advocate for sustainable development, life cycle assessment, clean technology and industrial ecology. Professor Clift was a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, of the Science Advisory Council of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), author and review editor for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and President of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.

CES has developed into an internationally-acclaimed centre of excellence on sustainable development. It is home to a multidisciplinary group engaged in key areas of sustainability research: engineering, scientific, social and economic research on sustainability, and tools for the analysis and design of sustainable systems. The Centre also hosts The Roland Clift lecture series, a prestigious annual event which brings leading external figures to present public lectures at the University.

Professor Clift retired from teaching in 2008 but remains an Emeritus Professor, continuing to contribute his expertise and experience to CES. He is also a Visiting Professor at Chalmers University (Sweden), the University of British Columbia (Canada) and the University of Coimbra (Portugal).

Award of the Davis medal recognises his contributions to both theory and practice in engineering of fluid-particle systems and in engineering for sustainability.

Professor Clift commented: “I have always seen chemical engineering as more than the branch of engineering applied in the chemical and process sectors: it is a way of thinking that brings together key scientific tools so that they can be applied in many areas. It is an essential component of the emerging discipline of industrial ecology. I am particularly gratified that the IChemE has chosen to recognise work that expands the scope of chemical engineering beyond George Davis’ original conception.”

The George E Davis Medal will be presented to Professor Clift at The Royal Academy of Engineering on 6 July 2017, following a lecture entitled 'Seeing the Whole Picture: chemical engineering and the science of sustainability'. The lecture, which will be the twelth George Davis lecture, will see Professor Clift share his thoughts on the crucial role that chemical engineering has in finding sustainable solutions and address the key challenge of finding ways to live within the contraints of a finite planet. The event is free of charge and open to all.


Explore chemical and process engineering at Surrey and discover more about the wonderful research taking place at our Centre for Environment and Sustainability

Watch a live-stream of the award presentation on the IChemE facebook page.

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