Each month we’ll feature someone from the ICCA Association Community and ask them to share their vision, mission, thoughts and feelings about the work they do… and the kind of people they are.

This will help give members real insight into the heart of our association community… and the people they wish to connect with. This time Iain Bitran, Executive Director, ISPIM.


Please explain to us in a few sentences, what your association does?

ISPIM - the International Society for Professional Innovation Management - is a community of members from research, industry, consulting and the public sector, all sharing a passion for innovation management - how to successfully create new products, processes and services from ideas to stimulate economic growth and well-being. Formed in Norway in 1983, ISPIM is the oldest, largest and most active truly global innovation network. We hold three international scientific-bases conferences per year. Our main conference takes place in Europe in June and attracts 600 delegates and we also organise two smaller events outside of Europe. All our events focus on showcasing innovation in the host cities and encourage collaboration between local and international innovation professionals.

Why did you join the ICCA Association Community?

ICCA is very important to us as it allows us to build relationships with other event industry professionals. Developing relationships with destinations, venues and other event suppliers is extremely important and allows us to get across what is important to us and what we can give back to a destination. These relationships make the difference about where we hold our events and with whom we work. Also very important is to share knowledge, experiences and best practices with other association executives.

Interesting facts about your associations

Our conference delegates formed their own band in 2012 and have been a fixture at our main conference in June ever since. Social events play a very important roles in conferences and this is where many connections are actually made. So we firmly believe in playing hard as well as working hard!

What is your top tip to other association professionals for 2024?

We definitely believe in keeping things simple and questioning everything we do. By all means try different things but do not continue to do things if only a handful of people are interested in them. Focus on things that provide the most amount of value. Also try to adapt quicker by reducing the length of time it takes to make changes or take decisions. An example is that we abolished membership fees in 2020 as many of our academic members could not pay separately for membership so we bundled the membership fee into the price out our conferences. We also worked out that there were only a few paying members who did not attend out of our events during the year and that processing membership fees was quite a costly and time consuming effort. So by abolishing fees we were able to simplify membership and became more inclusive in the process. And we increased the cost of our events to cover the shortfall. Simple.

What is the most unusual and exciting place you have organized and/or attended a professional event?

Probably the most exciting place we have held an event in was Fukuoka, Japan in 2018. From meeting at IT&CMA in Bangkok in 2016, and never having heard of Fukuoka, we were very impressed by the approach of the CVB and how quickly they understood our need to connect with the local innovation ecosystem. Consequently we were able to put together a conference programme very quickly. We also learned how important it is to establish personal relationships in Japan and that taking the time to meet face to face is incredibly important and rewarding.

In your opinion, what is the most important challenge the events industry needs to tackle in the next decade?

Clearly making events more sustainable is a very pressing challenge and much more needs to be done. I know that we only seriously started implementing a sustainability strategy last year when we held our main conference in Ljubljana where we worked with caterers to reduce food waste, engaged with a local homeless charity and encouraged the use of public transport, bicycles and walking on our innovation tours. Does your association have clear and evolving sustainability goals?