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The International Navigation Conference (INC 2016) run by the Royal Institute of Navigation is only a week away.  (8-10 November 2016.  University of Strathclyde, Glasgow).  The conference brings together many diverse communities united in one broad topic: navigation.

So how do you herd the cats of GNSS, indoor positioning, autonomous transport, security against cyber-attack, resilience, and quantum technology into a slick three-day conference?

A management consultant might be tempted to construct a matrix.  Disciplines could be laid out on the x-axis: academics, industry, operators, regulators, legislators, consultants, advisors. etc.  Applications could be set out on the y: position, navigation, timing, indoor-navigation, autonomous vehicles, cognition, animal navigation…  And that’s just the start.  We all know people who could turn that in to a ten-day conference with 50 parallel sessions.

But surely this would be self-defeating.  The advantage of an international conference is lost if the aim is to draw in a diverse crowd only to segregate people on arrival.  Anyone with a background in research and development knows that there’s many a team that has accidentally re-invented the work of the team next door.  It is why laboratories, clusters, hubs and incubators all rotate around a single coffee bar.  (The Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell is a great example).

So, it is good to see the INC 2016 programme includes opportunities for crusty sea dogs to chuck a glass of sauvignon blanc over a neuroscientist or whatever happens when these experts let their hair down.

And, of course, all will be united in the common language of the art, practice and science of navigation.

Which is more than can be said about the English language.  There’s a joke about a Glasgow woman who visits her dentist.  As she seats herself the dentist asks,

“Comfy?”

“Govan!”, she replies.

Educate yourself at INC 2016.

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