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COUP 2017

Tuesday, 12 September, 2017

​Now that COUP 2017 is over, we thought we’d give you the run down on what went on at the year’s premier event for anyone who works in procurement in the UK Higher Education sector.

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The Conference on University Purchasing is a great way for any university or college staff member who has an interest in procurement to gain valuable insights, tangible skills and network contacts that can be used in the workplace. COUP is held every two years at rotating locations, this year’s event was held at Swansea University’s Science and Innovation Bay Campus; a campus we successfully furnished in 2015, and still our largest project to date.


Day 1

Day one tends to be a day focussed more on social activities for delegates, and the dreaded set-up for suppliers! The theme of our stand this year was the “BOF VR GARDEN”. Using biophilic design concepts, we created an “outdoors-in” space to catch the eye of any delegates walking around the exhibition marquee. During 2017, we’ve made huge progress in our 3d visualisation and Virtual Reality skills; what better place to show these off than at COUP? We created a number of virtual reality environments using the latest visualisation software and the ever handy Google Cardboard product.

You can take a look at these Virtual Reality environments here. Don’t worry if you don’t have a VR device handy, they can be opened on any computer or mobile device!

Click here to read more about our VR environments

The Science and Innovation Bay Campus is a fantastic environment; directly next to Swansea Bay Beach! The social activity for the evening was a barbeque organised by Swansea University and the COUP team…. Unfortunately, the Welsh weather had other ideas so the BBQ was relocated to one of the University’s fantastic dining spaces, core cafe; but this didn’t dampen the mood of the evening!


Day 2

The morning began with a Conference Welcome from Howard Alloway HEPCW Procurement Manager followed by a fantastic opening speech from Sarah Dickins, BBC Cymru Wales' first Economics Correspondent and one of the country's most experienced Journalists. An opening speech from the first female Industrial Correspondent on television in the UK on “Spending to make a difference” was the perfect way to start the day.

After a quick coffee break, it was time to get stuck in to some workshops! COUP always provides a wide variety of workshops that give delegates the choice to choose which workshops will benefit them. This year’s morning workshops were: “Code of Conduct: Ethical Procurement in Supply Chains”, “Customer Service Excellence, is this for me?”, “University Travel: Starting a low Carb(on) diet” and ““A SWell way to engage with Sustainability and Wellbeing”. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to attend this year’s morning workshops as we were busy getting our stand ready for the influx of inspired delegates!

The first coffee break of the day was our first opportunity to demonstrate our VR capabilities with the delegates, which seemed to be incredibly well received! At BOF, we pride ourselves on doing things a little bit different; hearing these same words come from key decision makers within the University market was fantastic. Check out some of the action shots below

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In addition to our VR demonstrations, COUP 2017 celebrated the launch of our new publication: RETHINK. A newspaper filled with insightful articles, workplace tips and tricks and thought-provoking ideas. Keep your eyes peeled for the online launch of this paper within the next few days.


The first morning flew by, with a constant stream of delegates visiting and paying compliments to our VR Garden! After everyone’s coffee was finished and conversation died down, it was straight back into some more workshops…

The mid-day workshops included: “Responsible and Sustainable Procurement the Flexible Framework and Beyond” a great talk from Kevin Casey from the University of Manchester and Jimmy Brannigan from Netpositives. The workshop covered The Role of Higher Education in Leading and Delivering changes in Procurement Practice and focussed on if the Higher Education sector is now ready to lead the way on the implementation of the new ISO20400 standard on sustainable procurement. Other workshops included: The Art of Negotiation from The Gap Partnership and “What General Data Protection Regulation means for procurement”. After these slightly shorter workshops, delegates were directed to the exhibition marquee for a well-deserved lunch break.

Our exhibition stand this year featured the fantastic “On-Point” table from “Offecct”, this innovative product provides the perfect housing for an artificial or real tree to shoot up from the middle. Can you be-leaf it? The product gave us a great platform to sit down with delegates and discuss work (and non-work) related subjects over a spot of lunch. It also gave us the perfect opportunity to run through some of our recently completed projects. Check out some shots below and visit our projects section by clicking here.


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Wednesday’s lunch break was followed by two fantastic Keynote sessions. One session was hosted by Cardiff University’s Professor Kevin Morgan on “From good intentions to practice” which covered topics on the sustainable procurement of food products. The other Keynote session was delivered by Andy Davies (LUPC) and Angus Warren (APUC). Andy Davies and Angus Warren outlined the implications for UK higher education of the scourge that is modern slavery and the wider issues around protecting human rights in the supply chain. This was a session I definitely didn’t expect to see at COUP, but was incredibly thought provoking and outlined signs to look out for and how the sector is responding to the risks, including some simple tips that will help protect both workers and institutions.

After Keynote Sessions were finished, the day started to wind down as delegates prepared themselves for the Champagne Reception at the Swansea Maritime Museum and some drinks in Swansea Town!


Day 3

After months of planning, COUP leaves as quickly as it comes around. The final day was another fun filled day with plenty of workshops, Keynote sessions and VR demonstrations!

The day began with a Keynote Session on “The Impact of recent and planned changes to Procurement Regulations (including Brexit) on Universities” delivered by Jack Salter, Head of Commercial Policy at the Department for Education. The session covered topics which are prevalent within the procurement vertical including new procedures for Concessions and how this procurement route will potentially be useful and the likely impact of Brexit, including recalling how UK public procurement was regulated pre EU.

When demonstrating our VR capabilities throughout COUP’s coffee and lunch breaks, delegates were more than happy to get their hands on a goodie bag from the VR Garden. Including in this year’s giveaways were our BOF branded VR goggles. Check out the BOF Cardboard below!


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Also on display at this years COUP was our Brands, Harmony and Essentials collection. If you haven’t got yourself a copy of these, click here to visit our resources page.


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Following the morning’s coffee break and exhibition were two workshop sessions: “Closer engagement with customers – how Swansea University’s procurement function has reorganised to meet the challenge” lead by Laura Bubb-Evans, Head of Procurement at Swansea University and “Energy Buying in a Complex Market” by Richard Murphy from The Energy Consortium.

Thursday’s lunch break was our final opportunity to chat to existing and potential clients so we made sure to make the most of it! After totalling up our visitors, we worked out that our VR capabilities, Case Studies, Catalogues and Newspaper had been given to over 80 delegates! Check out some shots of the exhibition below.


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We all looked forward to this years closing speaker; Wynne Evans from the Go Compare adverts! Wynne spoke on how advertising can turn a loss into a profit. This really was the perfect end to a fantastic event.


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For all those who attended, we hope you enjoyed this years event. And to those of you unable to make this years conference and are catching up on the few days here… You really missed out.


For more information on any of the topics covered in this blog article. Drop an email to info@bof.co.uk.