I’ve been down at Innov_Ex for the last couple of days. It’s a conference at Lancaster University where the outdoor industry concentrates not on who has the best colours this season, but on the issues that guide and shape where the industry is going and therefore what we eventually get to use.
This year the theme was waste, environmental issues, recycling and the current recession added weight to much of what was discussed as its impact is wide ranging, but mostly in ways we can’t see and won’t be aware of, as it’s happening on the other side of the world in the factories and towns of the factory workers.
I got some amazing insights, and I’ll be writing a summary over the next few days.
From a personal point of view I was so impressed by the the whole affair. The atmosphere was different from what I expeceted, open and relaxed, no real posturing and protecting of points of view or brands.
The mix of guests and speakers was wide ranging, from brand representatives, to media, to boffins to folks who’s names we’ll hear more and more of as the industry has to change with the times and put it’s house in (environmental) order. From the start I was engaged.
Meeting and greeting was an interesting part of it too. At dinner the night before the conference I found myself sitting with Mary Rose (who with Mike Parsons organises the event), Jan the 2007 Innov_Ex prize winner, Sam of SheWee, Pete from industry publication Outdoori, Declef from Bluesign and then we had Gore, Backpackers Club and allsorts down the table. It was fascinating stuff, and good to talk away from the conference agenda as well. Folk are never two dimensional, and hearing about families, home towns, previous careers and more is important, as is the humour apparent in folk who are still deadly serious about their work.
On the conference day itself the first person I bumped into was GT from Trail. It was good to catch up, we’ve been having issues of late with the sleeping bag test I recently did (next issue of Trail) where the temperature ratings were all over the place. Some models had different numbers on the bag, the stuffsack, the website and the specsheet that comes with test kit. That’s one area where the industry has to pull its socks up.
I had lunch with the team from Paramo & Nikwax, great folks, and interesting to hear about why they do what they do, and also what’s coming in the future.
The day was jammed with lectures though, all well presented (including a successful video conference), so breaks were short and sweet, but it all flew by.
I’ve taken reams of notes which I hope still make sense to me, there’s changes coming, big changes.