Meet the Exec: Eurobitume’s Siobhan McKelvey
Eurobitume, based in Brussels, Belgium, is the voice of the European bitumen industry. First formed in 1969, the association promotes the efficient, effective and safe use of refined bitumen in road, industrial and building applications.
This year, Eurobitume is celebrating 50 years of working towards its mission.
“Our vision is to become the first reference for bitumen in Europe,” Eurobitume Director General Siobhan McKelvey said. “By offering a central, unified voice for bitumen producers and marketers across Europe, we are able to provide information and clarity on technical issues as well as health and safety questions.”
Here’s how Eurobitume promotes the use of asphalt products in Europe.
Can you provide a short description of Eurobitume’s mission and the activities it employs to achieve that mission?
Our mission is to promote the efficient, safe use of bitumen in road, industrial and building projects, and create a positive environment for sustained bitumen demand.
By offering a central, unified voice for bitumen producers and marketers across Europe, this provides access to an extensive network of experts allowing Eurobitume to provide information and clarity on technical issues as well as health and safety questions.
We work together with our members and local and national authorities to support the development and implementation of large and small-scale projects across Europe. We also work with government and regulatory bodies to develop and maintain testing procedures and safety standards, in order to ensure the highest possible quality standards in all bitumen-related operational activities.
This year is an important milestone as we recognize Eurobitume’s 50-year anniversary. We celebrated this occasion together with all our members, industry friends past and present, and stakeholders at our spring meeting in Brussels, which took place on 10-11 April 2019.
Do you have an annual meeting?
We have two general meetings for members each year. Our spring meeting is generally held in April in Brussels, while our autumn meeting is held in different countries where we have members present in the month of October. The 2017 meeting took place in Lisbon, Portugal, and last year’s autumn meeting was in Paris, France.
Could you share an example of what Eurobitume does to ensure the integrity of the road network in Europe?
In Europe, the demand for bitumen is fundamentally linked to the spend on roads. It is a common goal, therefore, for stakeholders with an interest in roads to promote the need and benefits of a performance-based, well-maintained road network.
To this end, Eurobitume collaborates with the European Asphalt Pavement Association and also the European Union Road Federation on relevant initiatives.
How many people work for Eurobitume?
Eurobitume has a staff of eight employees and consultants, who work full- and part-time.
How many producer and/or contractor members are in your association?
We currently have 13 core members, which include producers and/or marketers of bitumen with a presence in Europe, and 15 associate members, which includes organizations with bitumen product-, operations- or service-related operations, and relevant academic and educational bodies.
What are the top two or three ways you have increased membership in the association?
Organizations choose to join and subsequently renew their membership of Eurobitume for a variety of reasons, including the value they gain from being part of the voice of the European bitumen industry. As a member they also enjoy exclusive access to Eurobitume’s wealth of technical and HSE guidance and expertise, and the opportunities membership offers to help them shape the future of the bitumen industry in Europe.
As part of our restructuring, a couple of years ago we opened up a new category of membership, associate member, to organizations associated with the bitumen industry that were not bitumen producers or bitumen marketers. This has proved popular and we now have similar numbers of core and associate members.
Could you share some examples of when your organization has hosted events to educate others about the need for additional highway funding, asset management and road maintenance programs?
Eurobitume and our colleagues at EAPA took part in an important breakfast debate at the European Parliament in Brussels about environmental responsibility and innovation in the asphalt pavement industry.
At the Eurobitume spring and autumn meetings, we have seminars that focus on important topical areas. For instance, sustainability was the focus of the seminar at our 2018 autumn meeting in Paris, France.
We also organize and/or participate in best practice events, road condition and maintenance surveys, political campaigning and open forum discussions at a national level.
How does Eurobitume work with associations and organizations from other regions of the world to promote the asphalt industry?
Collaboration is a core aspect of how Eurobitume works. We have good working relationships with a number of organizations and associations around the world. In particular, we work very closely with the Asphalt Institute in the United States and the European Asphalt Pavement Association, EAPA.
Eurobitume and EAPA jointly organise two major international events that are held every four years and take place two years apart. The Eurasphalt and Eurobitume (E&E) Congress has a technical program, as well as a large exhibition, and typically attracts 1000 participants. The next one, which will be the seventh Congress, will be held in Madrid in May 2020. Visit www.eecongress2020.org for more information.
The E&E Event is a new platform, based around selected speakers and audience interaction, which reached approximately 400 to 500 participants when it was launched in Berlin in June 2018. The inaugural E&E Event, ‘Preparing the asphalt industry for the future’, attracted delegates from a wide cross-section of organizations associated with the bitumen and asphalt industries. They heard speakers share expert insights on six key themes: tomorrow’s world, tomorrow’s roads, tomorrow’s asphalt; financing solutions; sustainability; health and safety best practices and future trends; new technologies; and communication.
This event was created to provide a unique, highly-interactive platform for asphalt industry stakeholders to share thoughts and discuss ideas about how we can prepare our industry to meet future challenges. Each participant had access to an easy-to-use audience interaction device, Sli.do. This made it easy for delegates to have their own say, encouraged lively debate, and enabled real-time audience polling and questions-and-answers with the experts.
Can you talk about Eurobitume initiatives on a local level?
In addition to our Europe-wide activities, which are run centrally from our head office in Brussels, our local representations in Benelux, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom organize and collaborate on various national bitumen and asphalt initiatives, research projects and sharing best practice activities. They also help members with local issues regarding standards, regulation, health and safety, etc.
When were the national associations in France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Benelux integrated within Eurobitume?
The national associations of the United Kingdom, the Refined Bitumen Association; of France, GPB (Groupement Professionel des Bitumes); and Germany, ARBIT; were all integrated into Eurobitume in 2015.
The Eurobitume Benelux and Eurobitume Switzerland local initiatives have always been part of Eurobitume since their formation in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
The integration created an even more efficient and effective organization that has a stronger voice and is better able to represent the interests of our members from the bitumen industry.
Get to Know Siobhan McKelvey
How long have you been in the asphalt industry?
I have now been in the bitumen industry for 25 years.
Do you have a degree related to the industry?
I graduated from University in Hull with a degree in business, with a marketing specialization. After four years at Colas Roads, where I was a product manager, I joined Nynas in 1993 as marketing communications manager for Nynas Bitumen in the UK. In 2001, I moved to Brussels as marketing and communications manager for Nynas Bitumen Europe. In 2006, I became the marketing manager for Nynas Bitumen and in 2013 I was appointed as marketing director. In June 2015 I was elected and served as the President of Eurobitume until March 2018.
How long have you been the director general of your association?
I became director general of Eurobitume on Sept. 1, 2018, on a secondment from Nynas AB. I took over from Aimé Xhonneux, who led the organisation for six years and drove Eurobitume’s successful restructuring, national integration and significant membership growth.
What are your primary initiatives for Eurobitume?
This is an exciting, dynamic time for the bitumen industry and I am committed to ensuring we review and refine Eurobitume’s vision, plans and priorities in accordance with the evolving industry environment in which our members operate. I plan to continue Eurobitume’s evolution and focus upon delivering even greater value to the association’s growing membership.
As the first reference for bitumen in Europe, Eurobitume will collaborate with other bodies on issues of common interest and build upon the successful introduction of the inaugural E&E Event in Berlin last year. The increased scope of members offers many opportunities for developing the Eurobitume brand whilst supporting its mission, and we will look to extend further our services and activities as appropriate.
What do you see as the most important part of your job as director general of Eurobitume?
There are many different key elements to the role, but ensuring that the mission of Eurobitume is implemented effectively in accordance to the expectations of the members is very important.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
We are a relatively small team working on many high level challenges, so the engagement and input from the experts within our member companies are vital to ensure that we achieve results.
Advocacy of Eurobitume and ensuring that the voice of bitumen is heard within the many different arenas is a very important task, and requires a lot of time on relationship building and attending various events and meetings. Prioritizing this time is a challenge and to assist this we will review all our stakeholder relationships during 2019 to ensure we are gaining the most value for both parties.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job as director general of Eurobitume?
Bitumen is often seen as a niche product within the wider oil industry and I believe this is why the ‘bitumen community’ has developed a strong alliance for achieving common goals to increase awareness of this highly specialized engineering material.
I sometimes refer to bitumen as #SMARTbitumen, as do others involved in this industry, because there is a very positive story and important role that bitumen offers for the future and I am proud to be able to communicate those messages to a wider audience.
The world is getting small and this can also be seen in the world of bitumen. There are plenty of opportunities to interact, not only within our industry but also to extend relationships and dialogues wider across different stakeholders. I see this as a very exciting opportunity for Eurobitume in the future.
What has been the most rewarding experience for you during your time as director general of Eurobitume?
Working in a motivated and passionate team with the support and encouragement from the membership is very rewarding.
It is still very early days, but the huge support and welcome into the Eurobitume family has been exceptional. This gives me further encouragement to take on the challenges ahead.
For more information, visit www.eurobitume.eu.