I just returned from the Arizona desert and COFES 2014. The annual event (in its fifteenth year), also known as the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software (COFES), is more than just an event featuring technology as its central theme for technology’s sake. It’s actually more of an immersive educational experience that brings together many of the best minds in the technical realms of engineering software, hardware, education, and architecture, among many others.
COFES is recognized as a think-tank event that gathers vendors, users, press, and analysts together to discuss the many important issues facing both customers and providers of diverse technologies. The three-day event provides a relaxed and informal atmosphere designed to foster genuine conversation.
According to Cyon Research, the organization behind it, COFES is:
- A think tank where great minds come together to discuss best practices and to share ideas for managing change
- A technology summit that promotes discussion and problem-solving among industry thought-leaders, analysts and customers
- A business event that delivers practical strategies for achieving financial success in the engineering and design technology sector
- An informal environment where business leaders and technology providers can meet to identify and address key industry issues and challenges
Having been to a few COFES events myself, it is certainly those things, but also a lot more.
The theme for COFES 2014 was “Correcting 2020 Vision,” that forces our attention to look further down the road to a six-year horizon. Many of the discussions centered on the non-linear nature of the future beyond a two-year horizon. The stated goal at COFES 2014 was to help attendees achieve this clearer vision – one that better reflects the business realities we will all face by 2020.
Until the second day of the conference, I couldn’t discern if the 2020 reference was just the year and/or a reference to visual acuity. As it turns out, it was some of both. Although no one can predict the future with absolute certainty, the year 2020 provides a good vision and timeline for what might be on the horizon. The trick is now that the horizon has been set, how do we build the vision?
The format of the Congress encourages active (and sometimes very spirited) exchanges and interactions on everything ranging from PLM to 3D printing to STEM to coding to engineering search engines. The keys are the discussions, dialogs between individuals and not just corporate entities. Discussions take place at all meals, around the pool, outdoors between formal sessions, and around moderated roundtables. Companies, some you’ve heard of and some you haven’t, sponsor briefings in dedicated technology suites. These provide a good opportunity to learn what new and established companies are planning. In any case, all of the discussions point to the value of disagreement, diversity, and respect, as well as rethinking rejected ideas.