Sunday, April 25, 2010

Annual Conference

Well,  the dust has settled after a great annual conference in Cork last thursday and friday.  Well over 300 people attended,  and I suspect the final figure may be as high as 350.

Last monday (19th),  I was very concerned since we had lost four featured speakers due to Eyjafjallajökull - Minister Conor Lenihan, Craig Barrett, Ian Quinn and Bertrand Barré. Conor was stuck in Dubai;  Craig on US east coast;  Ian on US west coast and Bertrand in Paris.  Bertrand very kindly agreed to do a video conference instead.  I approached Ian's CEO,  Helen Ryan who happened to be in the country, and she very kindly agreed to take his place.  But both Conor and Craig were completely unavailable.

So, tuesday was an intensely busy day on the phones.....

I was able to assemble - at very short notice - a panel to discuss the enterprise economy and the role of engineers.  Roger Whatmore and John Mullins were already speakers at the conference,  and kindly agreed to join me on the panel.  John McGowan,  a past President,  kindly agreed to act as a moderator for the session. I approached Peter Clinch,  special economic advisor to the Taoiseach and the driving force behind his smart economy initiatives including the Innovation Taskforce;  and Regina Moran,  CEO of Fujitsu,  and having as inspirational career,  having attended a convent school in Cork where honours mathematics was not offered,  and rising via a Technician to become a Chartered Engineer and now CEO of one the major corporations in the country.  I am very grateful indeed to Regina and Peter who cleared their diaries at short notice,  and travelled to Cork for the panel.

James Ives,  CEO of OpenHydro,  also agreed at very short notice to give a talk on thursday afternoon - I thought his video animations and explanation of their novel tide flow turbines were inspirational.

In the event,  Ian managed to make it back to Ireland with two back to back overnight red-eyes:  west coast to New York,  and then back to Shannon.   I have done this myself in the past and know how exhausting it is:  nevertheless Ian seemed to be full of energy,  enthusiastic in his presentation and stressing how simple engineering done well has made Cregana such a globally successful firm.

Bertrand spoke passionately about the state of the global nuclear industry,  by video link from Paris,  and made some telling observations on the Irish energy sector.   He was kind enough to remain on the link for the entire session and then take part in Q&A.

Roger Whatmore generated awe by his description of the advanced research work being undertaken at Tyndall.

John Mullins - as ever - gave a very powerful speech on Bord Gais's strategy and some telling observations on Government policy.  Very unfortunately,  we couldn't get John's presentation up while he spoke - a file corruption problem - but managed to resurrect it by the time of the Q&A.

Tom Costello of Sisks gave a measured analysis of the construction sector.  Terry Nolan gave an update on the Corrib gas project,  including some interesting videos.  James Winter presented some impressive results of process re-engineering of the manufacturing operations at Depuy in Ireland.

In the evening,  Minister Michael Martin spoke very positively before dinner about the increasingly important role that engineers must play in Ireland's recovery.

We started the friday morning with a speech by Minister John Gormley,  who emphasised the Government's continued commitment to capital programmes and especially water.  He also discussed water charges,  and his interest in our proposals for regulation of Chartered Engineers.   He was kind enough to take a few questions from the audience afterwards.

We then had parallel sessions.  Kevin Murray,  of the Cork region,  chaired the session on leadership and innovation.  Brian Cassidy,  of the local government division,  chaired Ireland's water challenges.   Jim Gannon,  of the energy and environment division, chaired the session on engineering and Ireland's energy future.

In the afternoon,  we had a very interested session in which five resolutions were taken from Members.  We had a strict five minute policy for the proposers,  with a count down.   We also limited the discussion to at most ten comments from the floor.   Finally,  we used electronic voting - each delegate had a hand held radio voting machine - to instantly conduct the polls.

I was frankly very disappointed that the Northern Region,  having proposed one of the five resolutions,  did not attend to present their resolution.   I believe this was unacceptable.

I think the conference was highly successful,  with good media coverage including RTE's "Morning Ireland".  I believe that the mood was upbeat,  and it was a wonderful opportunity to network,  to be presented with insightful presentations and best practice,  and to share experiences.

I am very grateful to all our sponsors, but in particular to Bord Gais as main sponsor; and to both Corrib Natural Gas and Roadbinders as platinum sponsors. Both the Cork Region and the team in 22 Clyde Rd made extraordinary effort to produce the conference.

The text of my own opening keynote is here.

1 comment:

  1. Chris

    Thank you so very much for the time and effort that you put in to make the Conference in Cork such a success. We are all delighted to have been a part of a project that you led so well.