Celebrating our Heritage and Technical Expertise at ECSMGE

Posted by Philip Ball on 15-Sep-2015 14:38:00
ESG Blog Author Image
SOCOTEC, formerly ESG, exhibited at the XVI European Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ECSMGE), in Edinburgh. SOCOTEC’s group technical director, Philip Ball, took the time out from his busy schedule of attending keynote lectures, taking part in discussion sessions and advising clients on the latest technical solutions for their projects, to discuss why attending this year’s conference is so important to SOCOTEC.

Our Heritage

For us, this year’s ECSMGE is not just about attending a conference, but an opportunity to reflect on the impact that our organisation and our people have had on the geotechnical engineering industry over the last 70 years.

Steeped in history, SOCOTEC, as we know it today, has grown out of some of the geotechnical industry's most recognisable brands, including Soil Mechanics and CL Voelcker. Indeed, Soil Mechanics, which was incorporated in 1943 and can be traced back as far as 1937, was well reputed as leader in the soil mechanics field during its formative years and, according to Ground Engineering ‘established a reputation as a quality orientated and innovative company.’


This heritage has led us to offer a huge range of geotechnical engineering services for infrastructure and development, including geotechnical investigation (both on land and over water), specialist in situ testing, geophysics, laboratory testing, cone penetration testing, environmental consultancy and topographical surveys, all of which we are anticipating discussing with industry colleagues over the next few days of the conference.

Although, as engineers, we don’t always shout about our successes, it’s fair to say that our passion for innovation and quality in technical expertise and delivery remains to this day. In fact, one of our company values is progression, meaning that we are constantly investing in our people and equipment to continue to build on the expertise and methodologies established by our predecessors. Indeed, a large number of current standards for site investigation and geotechnical laboratory testing are based on the early working practices of Soil Mechanics and this year’s conference focus on Geotechnical Engineering for Infrastructure Development will provide a strong opportunity to showcase our current standards.

Many of our team continue to be well-reputed for their technical expertise and ECSMGE demonstrates just one example, as SOCOTEC’s principal engineer, Dr Peter Hepton, has co-authored the paper ‘Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Phase 1 Ground Investigation – challenges, geological model and geotechnical design considerations’ which will bepresented during the conference.The paper discusses the variety of techniques used by SOCOTEC to complete the preliminary ground investigation works for the proposed scheme, which aims to provide electricity to 155,000 homes.


It’s good to see that, like us, the conference is embracing the digital age, by launching the digital renaissance of the scientific paper poster here at ECSMGE. This year delegates can see posters being displayed on screens throughout the exhibition areas, where they are invited to navigate through the posters using iPads and further use this technology to contact the author to provide feedback.

As part of our progression programme, we too are launching new digital innovations. We have recently introduced SILAS, a mobile application specially developed for the geotechnical industry, which allows SOCOTEC’s engineers to input and store a large amount of complex data regarding strata descriptions and site records, eliminating the risk of transcription errors to maximise data recording precision. In another nod to our heritage, SILAS is of course named after Rudolph “Silas” Glossop, an influential developer of early geotechnical engineering and one of the founding directors of Soil Mechanics.


Just two days into the conference, we’re already seeing the benefits of our team attending. The packed technical programme, over the four days, including three keynote lectures and a number of sessions, with themes as varied as Slopes, Geohazards & Problematic Materials to Parameters & Modelling, is allowing our technical experts to catch up on the latest trends, bolster their learning and add to their continuous professional development for the year.

This year’s organisers have gone above and beyond, not only packing the technical programme, but also ensuring that the additional activities are varied and relevant. For example, Thursday sees a number of technical tours being offered in and around Edinburgh, which are set to bring some flagship engineering projects, such as the Falkirk Wheel, to life. Some of these sites, such as The Railway Research Centre, are particularly pertinent to ESG, as we carried out two major phases of ground investigation for the Borders Railway, which incidentally was opened last week by The Queen.

For clients and fellow ground engineers, I would encourage you to attend this year’s ECSMGE, which focuses on Geotechnical Engineering for Infrastructure and Development. And, who knows? The next great technical development for your organisation, or even our industry, could be just around the (exhibition hall) corner.  

Topics: Infrastructure, UK Infrastructure, In Situ Testing, Infrastructure Services, Geotechnical Engineering, Environmental Consultancy