By Karl Davis.

Foundation Ex 2022, Event Review

Our Bristol Offshore Wind Engineering Conference, Foundation Ex, has now taken place. The delegates have been and gone. The speakers have had their say. The food has been eaten and many drinks have been consumed. It’s all over for another year.

I think it’s fair to say that the 2022 vintage was a good one for Foundation Ex  

The buildup was not without its moments

One of the things I have learned from running an event is that running an event is a serious undertaking. While, for the audience, it is but one evening and day, my team have been firmly on the case for the past nine months.

Putting on an event like Foundation Ex presents itself with a near endless series of decisions. Each of which you just know could be the one that affects the outcome on the day. Should the event be virtual? Will people want to meet face to face? What about hybrid? How many sessions should we run? What would work best as a panel break out? How many projectors should we have on stage? Where should we have the party? All questions that needed tackling as part of the planning.

And of course, life likes to throw a few curve balls. We certainly had them this year. Three weeks before the start, our chosen venue had an unfortunate fire. No-one was hurt but it meant that we had to move the whole event at short notice. And then, only a few hours before the day, one of my team, Alan, who was due to MC the conference, had to pull out from illness. 

Sponsors, speakers, logistics

At the core of Foundation Ex is our agenda. We do this event as a platform for the industry to share ideas. Our brand says it all ‘Explore Innovation. Exchange Ideas. Expand Minds.’ The first edition of Foundation Ex in 2019 set the bar high. The subsequent Tech Session webinars in 2020 and 2021 pushed the bar even higher. Our 2022 Foundation Ex speakers were spectacular. The quality of the content was on a whole other level and I cannot thank each speaker enough. You did yourselves proud, you did our industry proud. Thank you.

While we are on the subject of thank you’s, I’d like to take a moment to thank my team who put in a mountain of work to make Foundation Ex happen. On the day, the whole thing went like clockwork. I know that doesn’t just happen but is the product of meticulous planning and preparation. I’d like to particularly thank Louise Coles and Stuart Pringle for all their hard work in the run up to the event.

Our sponsors also deserve a shout out. Wood Thilsted, ITH Bolting and CSE were the ‘big three’ this year. Thank you for your support – we could not have done it without you.

And so it was time to get started

After all the preparation, suddenly I found myself on a Monday evening heading to the Harbour House bar to welcome our delegates and kick off the 2022 event. The atmosphere was just what I hoped. It was clear that people were ‘happy-to-be-back’ and it was fantastic to meet a mix of old faces and new.

It was great to see how happy people were to meet and chat with each other. There was no school disco awkwardness here. I believe this is a reflection of the good personalities to be found in our industry combined with the efforts we make to ensure Foundation Ex is not your typical conference. No sales pitches, no overpriced tickets, no crappy catering. Foundation Ex was never, and never will be, a large commercial vehicle to make money.

 Our Offshore Wind Engineering Conference is a time to put aside competition in business and come together as engineers. A spirit of collaboration and joint enterprise to drive our industry forward, together. We all have the same goal to increase the capacity of offshore wind across the globe and further the green agenda.

My personal highlights

From start to finish it was a fantastic day. The delegates started arriving a little after half past 8, and by 9 the room was filling up. It was time to get going.

Some personal highlights from me include:

Hearing Martin Østergaard speak candidly about his experiences as a Geotechnical engineer was a real highlight for me. Specifically, his comments regarding the need for more collaboration between EPCI contractors and developers, and better understanding of each other’s challenging positions with regard to gathering site data. Having sat on both sides of the table, Martin was able to eloquently appreciate both sides of the arguments, and identify that stoically holding the line on each side isn’t helpful.

Getting schooled on stage by Carol, Beccie and Ursula on all things ‘digital twins’. I came into the session with a healthy dose of skepticism and left with my views sufficiently challenged and changed. A digital twin is not a thing, it’s a process and it is a force for good.

Managing to mildly embarrass Jasper Winkes for sending us a delightful bottle of scotch, which we managed to morph into a sponsored prize for the best presentation of the day, which we later had the pleasure of awarding to Hieu Le for his stellar talk. Jasper was an excellent sport too!

And let’s not forget Martin Østergaard’s new shoes … In a positive forward step for gender equality, it was only one of our male presenters that asked the question “Who are you wearing?” They were Errant by the way, available online at www.errant.dk

 

What next?

And so Foundation Ex is over for another year. The first thing we are going to do next is to share the slides from the speaker presentations. We’re hoping to have these online and available to download in the next few days. If you have not already signed up for the Empire Engineering newsletter then I encourage you to do so. We’ll let our subscribers know when the sessions are available to download and where to access them. 

We also had a professional photographer and film crew on site across the two days. I’m looking forward to seeing the results which we’ll share as soon as we have them. For those of you who didn’t make it, you’ll see just what you missed!

And Foundation Ex? Well, it’s time to take stock and decide what the next evolution looks like. The one thing I do know is that it will be back. Watch this space.

Karl

 

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