Ex Ordo: Event Organising for Academic Conferences

Attendees at BlogTalk 2010, held at NUI Galway

In all of Ireland there are over 50 universities, colleges and institutes of higher education that function as independent bodies. Although, technically, some of these are federated under the National University of Ireland or otherwise constituted. This amounts to almost 300,000 students in full or part time tertiary education.

Ideally, there would be a commensurate amount of teaching staff to cater to this desire for learning but with a reduction of almost five thousand educators at all levels between 2009 and 2011 due to a hiring freeze and ‘natural wastage’ this is not the case at the moment. It can be argued that this constantly increasing ratio between student and staff ratios explains the almost free-fall nature of the descent of Irish Universities in global league tables such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-2012.

However, for many of those career academics that remain and who are in pursuit of professorship and perhaps tenure, certain accomplishments are required. For many, one such requirement to be fulfilled is the organisation of a conference or symposium on a related subject to their own discipline.

With an increased workload, academics are clearly busy people and anything that does not distract them from the exercising of their core competencies and responsibilities has to be seen as a good thing.

In this case, the good thing comes in the shape of Ex Ordo. Its inception began when Paul Killoran was at NUI Galway studying for his engineering degree. Paul saw that one of his lecturers needed a better way of being able to put together a conference that he was organising. Thinking it would be a week’s work Paul began programming away…six months later it was completed.

“I thought I would just park it but then someone came to me and said. “Can I use it?” Then someone else came to me and said, “Hey, can I use that as well?” After Ex Ordo was used in over twenty conferences in Ireland, the UK and in Europe Paul realized, “We have something here.”

Paul explains further, “Ex Ordo is about academic conferences. Every academic, in their career will have to run these things if they are serious about becoming a professor. Most of these academics have never run an event in their life.

“What we sell them is a platform or a framework within which they can design [their event] without having to worry about the ins and outs of how the mechanics work. What we have done is packaged all the tools that they are going to need to run that conference.”

Another bonus for the aspiring academic nervous about over commitment is in the way Ex Ordo charges for its service.

“The organisers aren’t charged for this service as Ex Ordo earns its money from a percentage of the delegate fee.”

Higher education is a global multi-trillion dollar industry and Ex Ordo has, just recently, made its first US sale. To aid with expansion Paul and his team are now looking for more investment.

Paul says, “We have three main sales channels — We have enterprise partners, resellers and the individual conferences. We are looking to partner with these large societies that run thousands of conferences and becoming their preferred supplier. In order to do that we need to get in front of those people and that is a costly exercise.”

Enerit Enables UCC to be First University in World to Reach ISO 50001

University College, Cork (UCC) has become the first university worldwide to reach the international ISO 50001 standard for systematic energy management, and it did so using software developed by Irish company Enerit.

“We’re very proud,” says UCC energy manager Maurice Ahern. “We’re also happy to be the first public sector body in Ireland [to reach the ISO standard.]

“We had made a decision to pursue ISO50001 and went out to the marketplace. A lot of these things are paper-based, but the online system seems very good.

“We see it as a tool for saving energy. It makes it very easy, if there’s an energy saving opportunity, it’s accessible very easily,” continued Mr. Ahern.

Paul Monaghan, co-founder and CEO of Enerit, acknowledges that while industry in Ireland has “strongly taken up” the ISO standard, introduced in June 2011, implementing it in a university environment presented a unique set of challenges.

“Groups like universities do need more external support from energy management consultants.

“When UCC tendered for the energy management consultant to help them get ISO50001, it turned out that they were offered two alternatives; one was to do the consultancy in the conventional way and the other was to do the consulting in conjunction with our software, and the university was prepared to go with the software approach.

“Basically, what happened in the case of UCC is that they had a top-class international consultant called Liam McLoughlin, who is from the Cork area but also works for ISO globally. Basically he used our software and his own experiences in ISO50001 to help UCC implement it.”

In a situation like a university, with multiple campuses and buildings, it can be difficult to identify whose responsibility it is to identify and implement energy-saving opportunities.

This can lead to spreadsheets being bandied about between various departments, with no overriding support structure to track changes and progress.

“Typical of what would happen is that all the organisation would use a spreadsheet, but the difficulty with that is then you don’t have all the information visible in one place, and what happens is the spreadsheet starts getting emailed around and different people can edit that spreadsheet so no-one knows exactly which version of the plan is the right one”, says Mr. Monaghan.

“The benefit of having the software in a situation like this is everything is in the one place, there is very careful control of who can edit the plan.

“In a place like a university or any multi-building operation, to have spreadsheets is just not viable.”

Having implemented the ISO standard, UCC can now hope to achieve energy savings of between ten and twenty percent.