The EICC’s new academic advisory board, the Exchange Initiative, is here to highlight the vital role that senior academics play in attracting international association conferences to the city, while shining a spotlight on Scottish universities.
BEING AN IMPORTANT OCCASION where global membership organisations can gather together, association conferences at the EICC regularly attract up to 2,000 delegates who travel from all over the world to share innovative ideas and groundbreaking research with their peers. Not only does this translate to tens of millions in economic impact for the city each year, it also raises the international standing of Edinburgh’s universities.
“Associations conferences help position our universities, the EICC, and Edinburgh on a global stage, whilst showcasing the leading research coming out of our universities,” says Elaine Miller, a business development manager at the EICC, and the brains behind the Exchange Initiative.
“[We] want to ensure there is more engagement with policymakers, industry bodies, Scottish Government agencies, and other academic research institutions.”
- Elain Miller, EICC
“There are significant long-term benefits in attracting these large-scale events, as the collaboration, knowledge exchange, and relationship building that takes place at conferences helps to inform change and creates lasting impact,” she added. “The EICC and Exchange Initiative group recognise these benefits and want to ensure there is more engagement with policymakers, industry bodies, Scottish Government agencies, and other academic research institutions.”
Labour of love
Having initially pitched the idea back in 2018, Elaine is thrilled to finally launch the Exchange Initiative, especially after unexpected delays due to Covid lockdowns. “It’s been a real labour of love,” she laughs. “We’ve always had great relationships with academics in the city but we wanted to formalise this relationship by creating a small advisory board that almost feels like an extension of the EICC family.
“Currently, we have nine academics on board from across Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. The goal is to not only secure conferences from sectors which have academic strengths in this city - for example: Medicine, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, IT, and Energy - but also to target new and emerging sectors.”
Raising the bar
As chair of the Exchange Initiative, Gary Hutchison, Dean of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, recognises its value to everyone involved. “The academic advisory board gives us a structure, with a clear set of objectives, and a platform to go out and identify even more opportunities for the EICC, the university sector, and the city itself,” he says. “We build from an already strong base, and it’s an initiative we are all very excited about because we know the impact knowledge exchange will have on helping raise the bar for Edinburgh, and the economic and social impact that will result in.”
“It’s an initiative we are all very excited about because we know the impact knowledge exchange will have on helping raise the bar for Edinburgh, and the economic and social impact that will result in.”
- Gary Hutchison, Edinburgh Napier University
EICC’s CEO Marshall Dallas agrees: “The EICC has a longstanding history of collaborating with the university sector, the academic advisory board formalises this collaboration, and it’s an initiative that has been in the workings for a number of years. We are confident the Exchange Initiative will deliver a step up in the association business we attract to the EICC, an initiative that squares well with our mission to create an environment to inspire ideas that change the world.”
To help market and facilitate the project, an online portal will be launching soon, which Elaine describes as a ‘one-stop shop’ providing a practical resource to support ongoing bids for international association conferences. With such a determined and invested team at its heart, the Exchange Initiative undoubtedly has huge promise in raising Edinburgh’s global profile by driving conference wins and research from our city's universities. We can’t wait to see the opportunities it brings to all involved and the legacy these events will leave on the city.
Exchange Initiative board members
- Chair - Prof. Gary Hutchison, Dean of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University
- Prof. Raffaella Ocone, Chair of Chemical Engineering , Heriot Watt University
- Prof. Liz Grant, Assistant Principal & Director of the Global Health Academy, University of Edinburgh
- Prof. Duncan Hand, Deputy Head of School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University
- Prof. Paul Barron, Interim Deputy Dean Business School, Edinburgh Napier University
- Prof. Teresa Fernandes, Director of the Institute of Life and Earth Sciences, Heriot Watt University
- Prof. Jurriaan Hage, Head of Computer Science, Heriot Watt University
- Prof. Lis Neubeck, Head of the Centre for Cardiovascular Health, Edinburgh Napier University
If you are interested in finding out more about the Exchange Initiative then contact Elaine at [email protected]