The Story of GATE

Most of the GATE members and affiliates have experience with trying to bring sustainability into the business-as-usual. We have similar stories. We have long known that a"we need to take action", we have argued for what "should be done", but the consensus is that we have not been able to find a way to get the traction and inform decisions to change what needs changing. Since 2000 the Advanced Energy and Material Systems Lab (AEMSLab) at Canterbury University in New Zealand has been working on energy transition, and the role of engineering. Dr. Susan Krumdieck, Professor in Mechanical Engineering, has 25 years of research and experience in sustainability and energy engineering.

The term, Transition Engineering was first used in 2010 to describe the approach to sustainable energy that Professor Krumdieck's research group were developing. The idea was that the work of transition to sustainability could be accomplished in a similar way to previous transitions. The researchers studied the history of socio-techno-economic transitions to understand the sequence of events. They came to see a pattern of emergence of corrective transdisciplines.

"Corrective" because the incumbent and "normal" way of doing things was also causing harm, and the disasters were growing to an unsustainable level. for example, consider worker safety in most factories, and public safety in the era before fire engineering in the 1800's. In every case - food, chemicals, rail, boilers, maritime, buildings, medical, offshore oil platforms... the casualties and disasters grew and continued while governments were at a loss to enact regulations that were seen to risk economic benefits and jobs. People continued to protest for years. The trigger for transition has always been a small group of experts in the particular field taking it upon themselves to gather data, undertake rigorous research, dispel myths and inaccurate claims, and to set out a science-based professional process based on standards, and to set up required training for all professionals, engineers, operators, managers and end users. The essential research is almost always done at a university, but an industry-supported research institute, training centre, centre of excellence and standards soon develops for the specific industry.

The term "transdiscipline" refers to the nature of these systemic corrective transitions. They are not about a technology solution, although they result in new technologies, and they are not about just behaviour, policy or economics - the transition results in standards, regulations, policies, cultures and learning systems that are all embodied in discipline. The mechanisms for change involve whole systems change based on rigorous research carried out by independent, trusted experts in the field - usually at a university.

The principles of Transition Engineering developed through interdisciplinary research at University of Canterbury in New Zealand in the 2000's. The concept was set out in the IET Prestige Lecture series in 2010. The idea of setting up a professional organization germinated at an IMechE Energy, Environment and Sustainability Group meeting at Birdcage Walk, London when the founding committee was formed in a pub after the IET lecture. The founding committee continued to discuss ideas and options. The organisational workshop at London South Bank University in 2014 had clear agreement that "the world doesn't need another sustainability advocacy group".  Something different needed to happen. History indicates that whole system transitions are a convergence of existing intention and capacity around an easily understood approach and processes. Thus, the path to creation of the corrective transdiscipline through research, convergence, education and professional practice was followed, and the professional organisation of GATE established in 2014. The GATE gained legal status in 2016 and elected the Trustees in 2017. The website and administration was developed and the GATE opened for membership in 2018.


By 2012 there were a number of people who wanted to get involved on several continents. A Linked-in discussion group was started in November 2012 to explore the foundation of a professional group. The discussion agreed that in keeping with the founding of Safety Engineering in 1911, if 62 professional engineers agreed that there should be an action from within the engineering professions to achieve the scientific requirements for arresting intensification of climate change by fossil fuel reduction, then we would start a campaign for creating the corrective transdiscipline. The discussion group considers ideas and shares experiences. The decision to go forward with opening the GATE was made by 142 engineers from the USA, UK, New Zealand and other countries in November 2012. LinkedIn is also the forum where the organisation of the association took place. At the start of 2018 the Linked-in membership was over 2400 with people from across the globe.

Join the Linkedin Discussion Group

A campaign is any concerted effort to achieve an action. The discussion group came to the consensus about the action that would give hope to the most members. We wanted history to be repeated, and like Safety Engineering corrective transdisciplines, the ethical and responsible work of all engineering professionals would shape decisions and alter behaviors. The urgent action is to establish the practice of an engineering discipline that works to prevent what is preventable - failure of energy service systems and catastrophic climate change. The first step in achieving this action was seen to be, like Safety Engineering, for a group of engineers to form an association. The campaign was launched at 8 March 2013 at the Otago Energy Research Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, in an event hosted by Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand. 

A workshop meeting was organized in 2014 to decide on a name for the professional association, draft the constitution, elect trustees, decide on structures and set a work schedule to achieve an international launch within 2 years. One of the huge pieces of work that needed to be accomplished was gaining legal status for the organisation. Applying for and being granted status as a charitable organisation in the UK required more than 2 years of volunteer effort.  

Organizational Workshop 2014 

Julie Winnard, Andy Ford, Connie Shirley, Rupert Blackstone, Susan Krumdieck, Alex Galloway, Walt Patterson, Michael Reid, Daniel Kenning, Deborah Andrews, Nick Bristow, Jackie Carpenter,  Adam Poole, Jim Stewart, Roger Wade, Alex Vella