Our Honorary Judges

Steve Birdsall, FCIHT, CEO Gaist.co.uk

Steve is passionate about data, about applying new technologies to the built environment and about constantly identifying more innovative, efficient and smarter ways of working. A leader in his field, he has more than 35 years’ experience in specialist data management systems and the strategic management of highways infrastructure and assets.

Before launching his own company Gaist in 2009, Steve worked around the world on large-scale survey projects including national surveys of both the UK road and rail network.  His career began at 16 as an Army field surveyor in the Royal Artillery, and since then has carved out a successful career in business and was voted ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in association with the Telegraph in 2019. 

Steve started his own company Gaist Solutions Ltd 14 years ago and continues to head up Gaist as Chief Executive. He is actively overseeing the company’s UK and international expansion.

kevin burke
Kevin Burke, BSc MSc CEng MIET

Kevin holds degrees in Physics and Maths, and Aerosystems Engineering; and a private pilot’s licence. He served in the Royal Air Force as an engineering officer, managing combat aircraft, and their weapons systems, but also in Technical Intelligence and latterly as a Squadron Commander at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, leading on Advanced Technology Training programmes.

On leaving the RAF Kevin joined BAE SYSTEMS working within the BAE SYSTEMS Virtual University, as Head of Sponsored Programmes. He then moved on to become Regional Director for the North of England  for the Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths Network (STEMNET), working closely with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Kevin also spent time as Divisional Head for iSTEM at Preston’s College, before moving into his current position within the Department for Education as a Policy Lead specialising in Further Education.

Kevin lectures regularly to undergraduate and post-graduate courses, and is the school’s liaison officer for the Institute of Engineering Technology (IET) across Lancashire and Cumbria (www.theiet.org)

blackpoolrobo robo
(picture-shy) Keith Ridley, MSc CEng FIET CMgr MCMI MRAeS MINCOSE

Keith came late to engineering, having dropped out of university and spending a number in the RAF as aircrew specialising in sensor operation and management.  He finally he needed a proper job and decided to move in to engineering whilst working for BAE Systems, about 20 years ago.

At BAE Systems he carried out several engineering roles including managing the Mission System for the Nimrod MRA 4 and the Radar for the Eurofighter Typhoon.  He studied for an MSc in Systems Engineering during this period. He spent some years at Thales Transport as the Head of Capability, ensuring that the people, tools and processes were in place to meet the needs of the company’s projects in the rail, tube and automotive industry.

He currently works as a Technical Manager at Assystem Energy and Infrastructure Limited.  In this role he is responsible to the Chief Technical Officer for carrying out the governance of the technical team, including chairing progress reviews and supporting bids for future work.

In his spare time Keith volunteers for the IET, reviewing applications for Chartered Engineers and being a member of their disciplinary board.