MIPIM sums up a changed industry

And so to Cannes for this year’s MIPIM conference. While the annual jamboree in France is dominated by property types – a very different breed to contractors – many big construction firms see value from getting themselves in front of existing and potential clients in the south of France. Kier, Willmott Dixon, Morgan Sindall, Bouygues, to name but a few, were spotted treading the Croisette again this year.

MIPIM was established in 1990, and each spring it provides a forum for built-environment professionals around Europe to showcase their services. The event is renowned for its work-hard, play-hard culture. But historically, it had a rather seedy side. In 2001, as a naïve young reporter, I was amazed to see a list of the best brothels in town contained within the unofficial, but widely distributed, event guide.

These days, the prostitution is gone, at least overtly, along with much of the previous machismo associated with the event. How much that reflects a wider progression towards greater inclusion in construction is a topic I discuss in this month’s FirstSite podcast with Rachel Bell, a director of the Women in Property organisation. I also get to know Caroline Compton-James, the recently appointed deputy chief executive of framework provider Scape, who was making her first visit to MIPIM. 

Of course, Covid played a big part in the changed atmosphere at the conference and exhibition – not least by reducing the number of delegates.

Cancellation of the event in 2020 led, the following year, to the creation of UKREiiF, held in Leeds. For a brief moment, it seemed that the growing popularity of this new UK-focused event might relegate MIPIM from must-attend to also-ran.

However, many firms are starting to see the two events as complementary, rather than competitive. More than one person told me that they see MIPIM as a springboard for conversations in Leeds.

However logical, this two-pronged approach presents some tough choices for firms over which personnel to send to each, particularly when the economic climate dictates that smaller teams attend.

With the top levels of the industry still dominated by men, sending just the top team runs the risk of handicapping the construction industry’s moves to promote diversity. Denying talented but more junior male and female staff the chance to attend could handicap their development, preventing them from making the human contacts that keep the wheels of industry oiled.

So be brave – invest in the industry’s future by taking a more junior member of staff next time you book your conference ticket.

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