This initiative was publicly ‘launched’ at the 2016 EURO Conference in Poznan, but has a much longer history, going back to efforts made in the UK to engage practitioners in the national conference. In order to achieve this, for several years the UK OR Society has successfully included a one day ‘Making an Impact’ (MAI) stream as part of their annual conference. Talks and activities on this day are specifically tailored to be of interest to practitioners. This important initiative was embedded into the 2015 EURO Conference organized by the UK OR Society at The University of Strathclyde, with a range of practitioner-oriented activities offered throughout the whole conference.
The organizers of the 2016 EURO conference in Poznan were keen to also incorporate MAI activities, and a multi-national ‘MAI team’ was brought together to plan the program. This allowed some of the momentum to be retained, although the schedule was less ambitious because fewer local practitioners could be identified. Nevertheless one of the MAI team, Josef Kallrath, suggested that we use this as the starting point for a European Practitioners’ Network.
As part of EURO 2016, on Monday 4th September Ruth Kaufman (a practitioner, and President of the UK’s OR Society) coordinated the “European O.R. Practitioner Network: Founding Meeting”. 16 people took part representing 7 countries and working in a range of industries. Four groups were formed to discuss challenges they face and identified a number of common factors. The group also discussed what they would like to achieve through a formal network and these included: enabling collaboration; inspiration to help solve complex problems; examples of cooperating with academics; and maintaining the MAI momentum for future conferences, bearing in mind that there will be no EURO conference in 2017.