OPINION16 June 2015

Hot days and hot ideas


In only its third year, IIeX (or the Insight Innovation Exchange to give it it’s full title) has established itself as the key conference to go to if you are interested in innovation within the world of research.


As a regular conference-goer it is interesting to contrast this conference with the other main ones on the calendar. There are more sales pitches, more focus on technology and fewer longer papers and client case studies. But if you want to know what new things are happening in research then this is definitely the place to be.

There are around 750 people this year with participants split between clients and suppliers but also investors, technology companies and educators – a very different segmentation than you would get elsewhere. There is also a much more commercial vibe within the conference: deals are being made — hence the investors coming along — and there are over 150 one-to-one conversations pre-arranged between clients and researchers.

Of course there are also speeches. This year kicked off with J. Walker Smith from The Futures Company suggesting we should look at vanishing points — major trends that are in decline — in order to find where the next new things are coming from. Then we saw Vasselin Popov from The University of Cambridge showing how they came to be able to predict personality type better than your spouse, simply from your Facebook likes.

There were then four different tracks, so bouncing around between presentations is necessary. I focussed on sessions around semantic networks and visualisation technologies. Mark Earls talked passionately about his new book Copy Copy Copy and I also watched my colleague Ryan talk about a partnership between AT&T, ZappiStore and Added Value that focussed on helping AT&T automate some of their research processes.

There was an interesting presentation from Andrew Leary of Ipsos lamenting the declining ratings of communities companies on the most recent GRIT report most innovative companies list. To me it seems related to the growing acceptance of communities as a core methodology, meaning they are no longer as innovative as they once were. His prescription for staying cutting edge focussed on integrating digital technologies and also ensuring very fast turnaround, pop-up community options.

Finally today also included the Insight Innovation Competition where five companies pitched, Dragons’ Den style, for a prize of $25,000, mentoring and potential investment opportunities. Not surprisingly, all companies were very technology centred but the range of offerings was good, with ideas around gamification, social media, app recruitment, automated incentivisation and neuroscience.

Fortunately there is a party tonight being run by The Research Club. Unlike the amazing ESOMAR dinners this conference doesn’t focus on the entertainment side. However, I suspect that there will be lots of very interesting side conversations over drinks tonight that will probably be less social and more deal focussed, and those conversations will probably be helping to shape much of the research industry over the next few years!

Stephen Phillips is CEO of Zappistore