Comment: EICC puts capital – and Scotland – on world map

Next month we are relaunching a series of free public talks at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) that have been a great success since we started them back in 2016. Previous themes have covered social enterprise, with champion for the homeless, Social Bite; the arts, which saw the directors of Edinburgh’s main festivals discussing how the city stays on top in the face of international competition; and sports endurance, with more than 1,000 people attending adventure cyclist Mark Beaumont’s Q&A in 2017.

We see ourselves as a city institution that thrives because of close collaboration, says Dallas. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Rebadged as EICC Live from Innovation Nation, the first event takes place on Tuesday, 4 June with EICC Live Hyperloop, affording attendees a chance to hear about the futuristic mass transportation concept attributed to tech entrepreneur and Tesla founder Elon Musk. It will be led by members of Hyped – a team of academics and students from the University of Edinburgh who developed a Hyperloop prototype which will be displayed on the evening.

Speaking ahead of the talk, Hyped’s technical director Gonzalo Gil said: “Hyperloop is a relatively simple idea that has the potential to change mass transportation and rearrange human geography. It’s the type of thing we would expect from a future civilisation and we’ve taken the challenge on ourselves here in Edinburgh.”

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The Hyperloop talk fits squarely with our mission at the EICC: to create an environment which inspires ideas that change the world. As we reflect on our recent history when the likes of President and former First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama have graced our venue, and as we look ahead to the world-renowned TEDSummit taking place at the EICC in July, we can see our mission turning into reality.

We see ourselves as a city institution that thrives in no small part because of the close collaboration we enjoy with other local and national institutions and partners including the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, VisitScotland, our city’s universities, social enterprises, and the hotel and leisure sector.

The 2019 TEDSummit, secured against strong competition from around the globe, will bring more than a thousand luminaries to the city and contribute around £5 million to the local economy. The high-profile conference is set to turn a spotlight on Edinburgh, providing a rich legacy for the city in the years ahead.

As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said as we announced winning TEDSummit last year: “This international event will be an opportunity to show off Scotland as a home of innovation and of creativity and to build on our reputation as a place to visit, live and develop new ideas.”

In terms of our own business, we reported record annual results in March. Our strategy of investing heavily in the sales team in recent years is now paying dividends. While UK and European association conferences remain integral for the EICC, we have increased our activities outside Europe, believing this to be a prudent measure in the face of uncertainties around Brexit. We have also worked hard to gain an even better understanding of our customers’ expectations, resulting in the introduction of more flexible conference packages, while continuing to invest in our technology and environmental functions and practices.

In addition to welcoming delegates to our venue from across the globe, we want the EICC to be a cultural hub for people living in Edinburgh, across Scotland and beyond. In August, our doors open again for the Edinburgh Festivals as Venue 150 – with highlights including circus troupe Cirque Berserk, an immersive staging of the Irvine Welsh classic Trainspotting, and stand-up comedy from Rhod Gilbert, Craig Hill and Jimeoin.

We also host fast-growing Scottish technology event TuringFest in August and are currently planning our next EICC Live talk for September, which will focus on the related subject of women in technology.

- Marshall Dallas, chief executive of the EICC