Client: University of Cambridge, Department of Engineering

Type of event: Residential conference

Group size: 630

Venues: Cambridge Corn Exchange, St John’s College, Peterhouse, King’s College, Gonville & Caius College, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge Department of Engineering,Downing College.

Background

The International Conference on Technology of Plasticity – also known as the ‘Olympics of Metal Forming’ – is held every three years in a different global location. In September 2017 it came to Cambridge and the UK for the first time, hosted by the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and chaired by Professor Julian M Allwood.


The six-day multi-track programme was attended by 630 delegates from 30 countries, and included lectures, social events, technical tours and industry visits, as well as a public lecture at the Cambridge Corn Exchange delivered by Sir Tony Robinson to which 500 local school students were invited.


Four years of planning had gone into the event, with the Department of Engineering working closely with Meet Cambridge.


 

Event

Staging such a large conference, one of the biggest ever held in Cambridge, inevitably presented some challenges in terms of spaces but creative solutions were found.


The Cambridge Corn Exchange was the main venue for the opening lecture and the plenary sessions, and in order to accommodate everyone at the Conference Dinner, three College dining halls were linked together for the very first time with AV technology to create an impressive illusion of one large ‘super hall’.

Over 680 diners enjoyed an identical menu with service between the three venues perfectly coordinated and choreographed by College staff to ensure that all diners felt part of the same event. The Choir from Gonville & Caius provided entertainment and moved between the three halls during the course of the evening so that everyone was able to have a true Cambridge experience.


Delegates were offered a choice of accommodation, with guests staying at Downing College, Peterhouse, King’s College, Trinity Hall, Gonville & Caius College and hotels.


Other elements in the social programme included a private concert at King’s College Chapel and a Farewell Party at Peterhouse with traditional English food and drink, including local ales, a hog roast, fish and chips and pie and mash. A local band, Stumpy Oak, played folk tunes and delegates enjoyed learning some traditional dances with an impromptu Cèilidh.


Central to the Conference objectives was to introduce students aged 14-16 years to the idea of engineering as a possible career choice; a creative and imaginative public lecture was developed from a newly commissioned book on the subject by a leading West End theatre company. The lecture was hosted by comedy icon, writer and television presenter, Sir Tony Robinson. The lecture was recorded and the footage will result in the production of a legacy film to be shown to students worldwide.


In addition to the extensive programme of lectures delivered by world experts in the field of metal forming, the event also offered delegates the opportunity to engage with manufacturers and innovators on a series of industrial visits all over the UK to such companies as Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, The Welding Institute, Siemens and British Steel.Alongside the industrial tours the delegates had the chance to learn more about the UK’s rich heritage of metal forming with visits to top visitor attractions including: The British Motor Racing Museum, IWM Duxford, Coventry Transport Museum and The Royal Armouries.

Feedback

The event was a huge success and many complimentary emails were sent congratulating the organisers. Such comments as: ‘it was one of the best international conferences I have ever attended’, ‘what you did was phenomenal, really impactful to our community… you demonstrated the importance of creativity to young students and colleagues’ and ‘Great fun, a lot of colleagues and many good papers made this conference special. On top of that, you explored the advantages of Cambridge and we were exposed to so many of them’; ‘science and art together for the first time’

Professor Allwood said: “I’d like to thank the huge number of people who were involved in making this event happen, particularly the team at Meet Cambridge which was instrumental in sourcing venues, offering advice, recommending suppliers and helping our local organising committee to overcome some of the challenges faced with hosting such a large and prestigious event. “Our short, informal meeting with Meet Cambridge that took place four years ago led to this wonderful event where we celebrated today’s research, inspired future generations, and lifted a veil into a rich world of imagination, discovery, and extraordinarily large forces.”

Image credit: ICTP/Damien Vickers Photography/Meet Cambridge