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Iain Bitran, ISPIM

Meet the innovator

Iain Bitran has overseen the growth of the International Society for Professional Innovation Management, ISPIM, since 2003 and is now its executive director. Here he talks with Rob Spalding

RS: When you first joined ISPIM was it as executive director?     

IB: No, I joined as a member in 1997 at the ISPIM Conference in San Sebastian, Spain. I was voted onto the Board in 2001 at the ISPIM Conference in Lappeenranta, Finland, became ISPIM President in 2003 and Executive Director in 2008 when we changed the structure of ISPIM. ISPIM was founded back in 1983 by Professor Knut Holt in Norway. It is the oldest, largest and most active innovation association in Europe. It helps people share their thoughts and experiences about how individuals, organisations and society can be better organised to create and distribute new products, services and processes to make the world a better place.

RS: You’ve been with ISPIM for nearly 15 years. What you did before?

IB: Yes, I was co-founder of an enterprise modeling software company. I have a great interest in enterprise modeling and have developed several decision-support tools for the management community. Among my past clients have been the European Commission and United Nations and I have worked on many projects for other national and regional development agencies.

RS:  You take a great interest in the local legacy of meetings        

IB: Yes, I speak at conferences on the subject of working in partnership with convention bureaux to ensure we are able to put on relevant conferences that engage with the local innovation community.

RS:  Is it difficult to structure a body such as ISPIM with its unique independent individuals?

IB: Probably, but that’s not what we do. We are a network of people who are passionate about innovation management, irrespective of where they are from.

RS: What events do you organise in a typical year?

IB:  We run three international events per year including our annual flagship Conference, held in Europe each June, and our innovation symposium, held outside Europe each December. Delegates will be predominantly a mixture of European and local/regional, although about 60 countries will be represented.

RS: What do you feel is your biggest achievement with ISPIM so far?

IB: Growing ISPIM into this diverse network of people and running three international conferences per year.

RS: I understand the ISPIM social events are famous. Can you explain why?

IB: Because we put as much emphasis on social events as we do on the day programme. We believe that by putting people in a relaxed environment where they can enjoy themselves, they are more likely to make better connections … and have fun! Oh, and we also have our own band that was formed by delegates five years ago!

RS: Your annual conference is held in Europe. What criteria do you look for?

IB: First of all, the Board decides where they are held.  Mainly we require the destination to have an innovation ecosystem and for the CVB to be able to connect us with it. We have similar requirements of any not-for-profit association: heavy reliance on a local host to provide a local venue at no cost to the association. Naturally, the host city has to be attractive with local support provided by an identified local host. We need a venue in the middle of the city, with a plenary hall for up to 500 and with seven breakout rooms for up to 50 delegates each. For accommodation we need a 4-star property near to the event venue. We only nominate one event hotel from which we expect to receive a special rate including free WiFi and one free room for every 30 room nights booked.

RS:  Then you also organise an innovation symposium in December. In what ways do they differ?

IB: We used to up to 2013. We split that into two events, one focused on Asia-Pacific (The ISPIM Innovation Summit which is held in December) and the other focused on the Americas (the ISPIM Innovation Forum which is held in March/April).

Enterprise modeling is a term for the modeling of various processes, infrastructures, asset groups, or other elements of a business or organisation. Enterprise modeling helps leaders visualise what is going on within a business and how to make changes. With the growing complexity of business IT infrastructures, enterprise modeling is becoming increasingly important’

RS Five years ago you said 2012 would be a growth year for ISPIM. Was it?

IB: Yes, one of them, as we held our largest event ever, in Barcelona. However, since 2014 we have increased the number of annual events to three.

RS: What is the demography of your members? Are they young fun-lovers or ancient professors?

IB: We cater for many different people as we are a very diverse group. The common factor is that everyone is passionate about innovation management.

RS: What is the greatest challenge facing ISPIM right now? 

IB: Ensuring that we always remain relevant and remembering that we are an association and not just event organisers.