And the winner is…

29 January 2021

It was a great honour and privilege to be asked by the ITA to represent T&T on the judging panel of the ITA Tunnelling and Underground Space Awards 2020. Like many events these days, they were held virtually with the online judging completed in November and the awards presented on December 4.

Over their brief history, the ITA Awards have gone from strength to strength with more entries into more categories than ever before. This year saw two new categories introduced: ‘Overcoming the challenge’ and ‘Oddities of the underground’.

Awards schemes typically generate much interest and anticipation and can be hugely beneficial for firms and individuals. Over the years, I have sat on various schemes and it has become apparent to me why they can be so valuable for those involved. But, as I know from personal experience, putting together an awards submission can involve a lot of work and take up much time – time which might otherwise be spent on fee-earning activities. Indeed, some may be disinclined to enter for that reason, preferring instead to concentrate on their project work. But it is often worth finding the time as the rewards can be substantial. For those who need convincing, here are a few reasons why entering awards is usually worthwhile.

First, they are a badge of external recognition, raising the profile of individuals and firms who turn out to be successful. And here, ‘successful’ does not necessarily have to mean winning – although that’s often a bonus, boosting morale, motivation and reputation. But even achieving nominee or shortlist status can bring peer, public and industry recognition.

Second, awards showcase to a wider audience the expertise and innovation offered by entrants. Third, winning an award is one of the best forms of free marketing that engineers, contractors and suppliers can get. Fourth, making an award entry provides an opportunity to reflect on what was done right, and what might have been done differently, itself a valuable learning opportunity. Finally, writing a submission can hone your skills of selection, expression, reasoning and the ability to make a coherent, logical argument that will hopefully impress the judges.

Winning an award can boost the reputation of everyone involved on a tunnelling project which can work as a magnet for attracting new talent. Metrics can be, and often are, exaggerated but an awards accolade is an objective and valued achievement.

Awards generate excitement inside and outside the industry. In 2020, despite the best efforts of the pandemic, the ITA Tunnelling Awards were a huge success. That is why the event has become an established highlight of the tunnelling calendar.