Digital Construction Week (DCW), which has grown rapidly since its launch event in 2015, was acquired by Diversified Communications UK in December 2018. The show complements Diversified’s international event portfolio, which already includes: GEO Business in London; Commercial UAV Expo Europe in Amsterdam; DesignBUILD in Sydney; AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference and SPAR 3D in Anaheim, California; International LiDAR Mapping Forum in Denver, Colorado; and Commercial UAV Expo Americas in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As plans for the next event are well underway, founders Ollie Hughes (right) and Luke Collings (left) discuss joining Diversified, what’s in store for Digital Construction Week 2019, and what they think makes a successful trade show.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
O – I studied Journalism and Advertising at University. I got into publishing and events initially doing a sales job as a bit of a stop gap after I graduated. I then started working on a number of different conferences and events in the built environment and the stop gap quickly turned into eight years. After eight years working my way up from classified ad sales to my role as head of sponsorship, I decided I needed a change and after mine and Luke’s paths crossed, with a lot of hard work, DCW was born.
L – I was a bit of a drop out at school, so had limited opportunities looking for a career but managed to wangle a job in classified sales for Wilmington publishing. From there I went onto organising events at Step Exhibitions and there after launched my first company and event which I sold to UBM in 2008. After a two year earn with UBM, I went onto launch a consumer event – The Cake & Bake Show which went on to win various awards and was acquired by Media 10 after 3 very long years, and a fair bit of stress. After that venture, my paths crossed with Oliver Hughes and DCW was born.. and the rest is history, as they say!
What inspired you to launch Digital Construction Week?
O – I’ve always been interested in technology and I’ve grown up seeing how it’s changed the world around us. We’ve seen how streaming has changed the face of media and entertainment, how e-commerce has revolutionised retail, and robotics the same for manufacturing and the automotive industry, and much more. But the built environment is the last to have been really impacted, despite it being the one industry with the most to gain and to offer. Seeing this it felt like there was a real opportunity for an event that could bring an entire industry together. An event that could really explore what digital technology might mean for the built environment and how it can help shape the future of the industry – and I wanted to be a part of that.
L – A sense of a good opportunity and being in the right place at the right time.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful trade show?
O – A lot of hard work, a real understanding of the industry you’re serving, support from people as passionate as you are, and for me as this was the first launch I’d worked on, I’d say it helps if you’re working with someone who’s done it before!
L – Ultimately you need the right product, the ambition and drive to work long hours and the right people around you that have the skill set to maximise the potential of the of the event. Thankfully in the case of DCW, my business partner was fundamental to the project, given Ollie’s wealth of contacts and knowledge of what was a relatively complex narrative.
What are you looking forward to most about being part of the Diversified team?
O – Everyone we’ve worked with so far has been fantastic and really welcoming. It’s a strange feeling being back in an office after 8 years working on your own out of a garden office! But the team at Diversified have been incredible. The thing I think we’re probably looking forward to most is the added support we’ll now have as we look to keep growing DCW.
What opportunities do you see ahead for the industry in the coming year?
O – For the built environment specifically, it’s a really exciting time. This last year we saw our first exhibitors showcasing genuine artificial intelligence. Given construction is supposedly so far behind the tech curve it’s pretty incredible to think that AI is already being implemented in our industry. There’s some really incredible people doing some amazing things in our industry and that’s only going to gain momentum.
L – Now digital technologies are gradually entering the construction industry, there are some really exciting times ahead for how infrastructure, real estate and other built assets are constructed and maintained, with the emergence of AI, automated and robotic equipment, 3D printing and much more. Full digitisation will ultimately lead to an estimated 20% worth of savings and with an industry that works on such tight margins, this is an incredibly exciting prospect.
What exciting developments do you have for Digital Construction Week?
O – Each year we see a whole host of new technologies coming to the show. AI was a big buzz in 2018 and we’ll be sure to have a whole host of innovative new exhibitors in 2019. This year will also see the return of our Onsite Arena, a mock construction site which we build on the show floor and use for live tech demos. Last year Ekso Bionics did a live demo of their new EksoVest, Scaled Robotics showcasing their site maintenance and monitoring robot. This year health and safety permitting, we’ll have 3D Printing and some exciting drone demos.
L – Over the last two years we’ve really tried to evolve the model of the event to work with our partners and create a buzz around core LIVE features which we’re planning to do more with in 2019 , beyond that we will continue to develop great content as part of our extensive conference and seminar theatre programme.
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
O – To help keep costs down in the first few years I pretty much learnt to code in order to manage and run our website. Also since we moved to ExCel my birthday has either been on or the day after DCW, last year I made the mistake of celebrating this fact with some of our sponsors and exhibitors – and for that reason, day two was a long day indeed.
L – Leaving my wife in labour to head to the press launch of the Cake & Bake Show… needless to say, she wasn’t impressed!
The next Digital Construction Week takes place at ExCeL London on 16-17 October 2019.