This year’s SCSI Autumn Conference took place in Croke Park on November 9.

Society President Colin Bray tries out the latest virtual reality software at the SCSI Autumn Conference 2017 in Croke Park.

The day’s proceedings were chaired by Newstalk’s Shane Coleman, who firstly introduced SCSI President Colin Bray. The theme for the conference was ‘Innovation Impacting our Profession’, and Colin spoke of how working in Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) means that he is well used to innovation. In 2008, with technology moving so fast, the mapping agency had to fundamentally rethink mapping and change how it operated. The next speaker, Dara Keogh of GeoDirectory, encouraged companies to adopt a broad definition of innovation. It is not just about product development, it is about creating business value throughout your whole organisation.

The Government view and panel discussion
John Paul Phelan, Minister of State in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, said housing and homelessness is the number one issue for the Government.
He claimed that planning permissions are up 49% this year, with commencements up 47%. He said that local authorities would now be building houses. There will be new guidelines on apartment building, which, among other things, will remove the parking space requirement.
After the Minister’s speech a panel was held entitled ‘Solving the Housing Crisis’. Paul Mitchell, the author of the SCSI report into apartment building costs, explained how the problem is wider than construction costs. Paul Mooney, Benchmark Properties, said we’ve never grasped how apartments should be built as a country. Aidan Culhane of Urbeo Residential said that if the Government gives support to developers, it should be on the condition that affordable and social units are delivered. Developer Michael Flynn said that the Central Bank rules are too restrictive. Lorcan Sirr of DIT praised the apartment costs report saying it “threw three hand grenades into housing policy”: 1) height does not bring affordability; 2) land is the problem; and, 3) tweaking standards will not bring affordability.
Andrew Gargan of KMCS spoke after the coffee break about working on Facebook data centres. The way the social media giant works and the technology used is constantly changing, and those working on these projects require innovative mindsets.

Keynote speaker
Innovation expert Jim Kelly was the keynote speaker, and he explained how it is possible to learn how to innovate but people need to try it and be prepared to take risks. Innovation is how you solve problems for your customers. If you do nothing, your competitors will innovate and drive you out of business. He said that every innovation is desirable, feasible and commercial – where those three things meet is the sweet spot of success.

A smart Dublin
Jamie Cudden of Dublin City Council spoke about smart cities and how Dublin is doing in this regard. He believes the most competitive cities will be the ones that embrace technology. John Hogan of Lehman Solicitors said his firm is using individual websites for each property sale it deals with, making the process paperless, speeding things up and saving money.
Florence Stanley of CBRE talked about how diversity and innovation go hand in hand. She said that emotional innovation is crucial to the success of any organisation.
The final speaker of the day was Valerie O’Keefe of VP Consulting, who ran through her work with one company, which rebranded and split its business into two companies: afterwards, turnover doubled in both 2015 and 2016.

Closing remarks
In her closing remarks, Society Director General Áine Myler thanked all the sponsors and members, and asked attendees to look at one thing they do, see if there is there a way they could do it better and make a change.