First off the starting blocks

23 July 2012
Members of CIBSE, BETNET and the IET join forces

Working hard to forge strong relationships, IET volunteers and staff have taken full advantage of the opportunities the Games offer to raise the profile of the IET and the contributions of engineers and technologists, reports Keri Allan.

IET volunteers and staff have worked together to forge a strong relationship with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), resulting in the IET becoming the official sustainable utilities knowledge dissemination partner. Their hard work has culminated in a number of events highlighting the contributions of engineers and technicians to the Games as well as documenting best-practice examples and innovations for the benefit of future projects. In addition, this work has raised the profile of the IET, allowing it to develop stronger relationships with other industry bodies, leading to other projects.

The relationship first came about through Huw Blackwell, chairman of the IET’s Built Environment Technologies Network (BETNET), who arranged a meeting with Bruce McLelland, IET head of Sector - Built Environment and the project lead of the ODA Learning Legacy programme.

“I think it originally started, as do all these things, with a meeting down the pub,” says Blackwell. “I was at a technical symposium back in 2011 and met with some people high up from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). I started talking to them about doing some events themed around the Olympics. Bruce had been talking about this so I thought it would be a good idea for us to meet up with the ODA and sort something out.”

From there McLelland and Blackwell went on to meet the main project sponsors at the ODA for ICT and utilities, which lead to the IET becoming an official partner.

“The ODA working with UK Trade and Investment and the ICT Knowledge Transfer Networks identified the IET as an ideal partner to share lessons learned on enabling technology for the Games as part of the ODA's learning legacy,” says Karen Elson, a member of the learning legacy team. “The objective was to disseminate best practice within the UK technical community, transfer knowledge and showcase UK technology and expertise to an international audience. The ODA worked with the IET to become the learning legacy dissemination partner for the systems and technology theme.”

Event schedule

The next step in the relationship was to prepare a schedule of events based around the systems and technology learning legacy papers, which McLelland worked closely on with the ODA’s Gordon Shipley, head of systems and technology, and Ruari Maybank, utilities project sponsor. The IET was given a selection of papers and speakers to choose from, which had been approved by the ODA.

“The learning legacy events aimed to get speakers talking about different aspects of the systems and technology lifecycle, for example, the designer, the contractor, supplier and the project sponsor,” says Elson.

“The learning legacy team invited identified speakers to become learning legacy ambassadors so that they could present their lessons on the ODA construction programme within the constraints of the London 2012 No Marketing Policy, which usually prevents contractors from associating themselves with the Games and therefore doing any presentations. The list of learning legacy events were then approved by the ODA comms team and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG),” she explains.

“We suggested to the ODA that we could assess the learning legacy material that was in development, group them into themes and present them as interactive events…and they fully supported this idea,” says McLelland.

“The IET themes evolved into programmes from the approved ODA ambassadors and ultimately formed a series of events. We agreed that the events would lean towards an active discussion with our members so the ODA could gauge credible feedback on their work. The IET then brought in CIBSE as a partner with the events so both audiences could benefit. The IET also played the IET.tv card to take the events to an international audience…an offer the ODA were very keen to take up,” he enthuses.

Collaborative success

Collaboration was key to the events’ successes. For example, two of the six events were marketed in collaboration with CIBSE as the scope was of direct interest to its core membership. CIBSE’s contribution, publicity aside, was to chair the events and the Institution fielded its president – Andy Ford, director of Mott MacDonald for one, and Phil Jones, the chairman of the District Heating/CHP Special Interest Group for the other.

In addition, there was also collaboration from different IET groups. January’s systems integration and telecommunications event was hosted by the London Local Network (LN), which provided the master of ceremonies and venue financing, the IET Sectors hosted a drinks reception at the event and the entire evening was chaired by IET president Dr Mike Short.

“This event among other joint initiatives is building up a framework for future events,” says McLelland. “The LNs often have venues and provision of a programme for the IET wider contacts in their area. The Sectors and Technical Networks feed into this requirement by having access to the potential speakers. In addition, all parts of the IET in these collaborative ventures are now working to provide online content post event for wider knowledge dissemination initiatives.”

January’s event was one of the biggest successes with well over 100 attendees, and the technical paper based on the talk was very popular. Those involved discovered that the themes appealed to a very wide audience base.

“We had some events with only about 20 people and others with up to 200,” says Blackwell. “The audience was a mixture of people: those who were experts in that particular field and those who were just anecdotally interested.”

“The events attracted mid to senior management practitioners in general,” adds McLelland. “Core interests were sustainable engineering, utility infrastructure engineering, transmission and distribution electrical engineering, renewable energy companies and CHP/District Heating contractors. Interestingly, it was dominated by the industrial practitioners, far outweighing the research base.”

The only real concern ever raised was that the events would be too long for the content covered, but that turned out to be an unnecessary worry.

“With some of the events I was concerned that we wouldn't have enough to talk about as they were quite long – two hours with speakers on stage for an hour but I don’t know of a single session [that didn’t fill the time]. Once a debate got going the hour was filled with questions and discussions, to the point that there were people who wanted to keep asking questions, but we had to wrap things up for those who wanted to go home,” he enthuses.

Showcasing the IET

The schedule of IET events relating to the Olympics has been a great showcase of how the IET’s staff and volunteers can work well across their internal groups as well as with external partners. Plus the IET is already seeing multiple benefits from this work. For example the IET’s partnership with the ODA has raised its profile considerably.

“The Independent has come to us several times for comment on the ODA learning legacy,” highlights McLelland. “We took a very different and innovative approach to disseminating the knowledge gained from the ODA which they appreciated…we stirred the debate as opposed to the other partners which simply regurgitated what they had been given.

“The IET has had the attention of ODA chairman Sir John Armitt off the back of our partnership who has provided soundbites and marketing quotes for our Corporate Marketing department,” he adds. “He even agreed to be interviewed for the IET on the importance of engineering which will be used in our corporate video.”

Further relationships

Being recognised for its work with the ODA has also led on to other projects.

“Examples being the establishment of a partnership between the IET and Universities and Students for Energy Efficiency (Use Efficiency) where we will be influential in their forthcoming EU-backed strategy and an IP knowledge disseminator,” McLelland continues. “They found us through the ODA partnership and the initial project work has attracted the attention of the Guardian and the BBC.

“In addition, through our partnership with the ODA, the IET was granted unprecedented access to the Olympic Park Energy Centre and the Thames Water Old Ford Lock water treatment centre. We will be delivering online technical visits to these centres very shortly for our global audience to enjoy.”

Pleased with the successes so far, Blackwell is hopeful that once the Games have taken place there may be an opportunity to do some further events focusing on the lessons learnt.

“It would be quite nice to bracket the event with what actually happened and what was found out as a result,” he notes.

This work has also moved the IET closer to CIBSE, which was a Board of Trustee strategy recommendation back in 2011 and Blackwell would also like to nurture this relationship further.

“I’d like BETNET and organisations like CIBSE to get together and work on a lot of this output. Rather than being independent islands and trying to produce stuff separately, we could be a lot more productive if we were promoting each other’s [work too]. If someone’s already done the work we should make the most out of it as possible, try and sell the engineering community by getting more info out there and making it easier to get to that type of information,” he concludes.

Bringing everything together

Bruce McLelland, IET head of Sector - Built Environment, put a lot of time and effort into the arrangement of the events, however, many IET volunteers and staff came together to help develop the event schedule in just one month.
“Of course Huw Blackwell provided the expert volunteer input supported by the executive team of the IET BETNET Community. It took about a month of planning and pulled in the resources of the London Local Network too,” highlights McLelland.
“Huw Blackwell and the volunteers at BETNET provided the programme steering and scoped out the nature of the debates in each event - six in total. I provided coordination of the IET resources (IET.tv, venue liaison, marketing, ODA liaison, management of the challenges, CIBSE and Local Network (LN) partnership coordination, speaker management and stakeholder management).”
Other staff helped behind the scenes, including working on venue requirements, developing and managing the IET’s resources web page, managing the LNs and also the IET.tv resource management. A lot of work went into these events, but everyone is hugely happy with the results.
“Everyone wanted this to be a success as all organisations benefited. The IET is geared up to deliver these projects and the volunteers behind the IET have the expertise to formulate a well-placed, relevant and attractive offering,” says McLelland.
“It was challenging for the IET [but as they showed] it can all be done, it just needs the right incentive and motivation,” says Blackwell.

IET-ODA Legacy Programme schedule

Here are the events developed by the IET in partnership with the ODA’s learning legacy programme, concentrating on the theme of engineering sustainable utilities on the Olympic Park. These free evening and open events were designed to inspire discussion on the topics addressed and the sharing of thoughts and opinions from those present.

• Dec: Utilities for the Olympic Park - Design, procurement and power
• Dec: Utilities for the Olympic Park - World class water management
• Jan: Technology for the Olympic Park - Systems integration and telecommunications
• Feb: Environmental management on the Olympic Park
• Feb: Lighting the Olympic Games
• Mar: Utilities for the Olympic Park - Cutting carbon: district heating and efficient venues.

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