Blog June 2, 2021

A vision for proptech at MRI Ascend Europe

By Jack Harrison

It’s been a year of change, challenge and uncertainty. Every segment of the UK property sector has felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with massive shifts in the way people interact with real estate. From the initial complete shutdown of the UK housing market and eviction moratoriums, to mass remote working and sweeping retail closures, many have felt pain.

However, throughout the crisis, technology adoption and innovation has continued. And with vaccination rollouts picking up pace across Europe, focus is increasingly turning from overcoming the immediate obstacles to what comes next. A perfect time then for industry professionals to come together, explore the state of the market and examine the broad range of innovative technology that can help plan and deliver a successful post-pandemic future.

MRI Ascend Europe 2021

Part of our global client conference series, Ascend Europe went virtual for this year – offering the opportunity for 1,000+ industry visionaries to discuss and review the role technology has to play in the weeks, months and years ahead. Run across four days (10-13 May), the packed agenda featured more than 50 sessions showcasing latest industry insights, technology trends and software innovations. There were also two exciting guest speakers for attendees to enjoy – connection specialist Simone Heng who provided an engaging guest keynote, and well-known comedian and TV presenter Jimmy Carr, who presented the hilarious ‘Last Ever Lockdown Virtual Quiz’.

PropTech – past, present and future

The event kicked off with a joint session from the Executive Leadership team. Patrick Ghilani, Chief Executive Officer, marked MRI’s 50th anniversary as a technology innovator and looked at how the company has continued to play a leading role in the evolution of PropTech.

In his opening address, Ghilani said: “In 1971 we were founded as a company called Management Reports Incorporated. Through technology changes, through changes in growth, leadership, ownership, economies – you name it – we survive. But more importantly, we thrive. We believe we thrive because we collectively – you and us – are connecting communities with technology. And 50 years later, although the solutions change – and the mediums for delivering those solutions change – the ideals are very much the same: productivity, efficiency, value, and financial success for your organisations.”

Smart, nimble experiences

Up next was Chief Product Officer Saurabh Abhyankar, spotlighting how the rapid spread of coronavirus has shaped or created new trends, changing how we all live, work and play. Yes, the industry was somewhat in flux before the pandemic hit, but that shift has now been turbo-charged – and, in many ways, technology has never been better placed to offer support.

“Everything is changing, which makes it an exciting time to be in the world of PropTech, because it’s a time where we can all shape the future,” said Abhyankar, who highlighted the opportunity to apply data and analytics “in ways that really matter”. He noted that: “When looking to the future, we are able to define three mega-trends that we believe shape the future of real estate and PropTech. The first is smart buildings and technologies, which is about buildings having sensors and data – but also about the technology becoming smarter with insights and artificial intelligence to help drive automation. Secondly, physical spaces will become more flexible and respond to the changing needs of people, which means business models and PropTech will also need to become nimbler. Thirdly, engaging resident, tenant and guest experiences matter more now than ever before, because people have much more choice now.”

Real estate technology visionaries

Rounding the trio of speakers was Dermot Briody, Executive Managing Director for Europe. Bringing to life MRI’s mission and what it means for the region, Dermot was joined by Tom Attree – Director of Sustainability and Technology at Capco, and Nick Atkin – CEO at Yorkshire Housing. Both discussed the technology strategies for their respective organisations, and the wider sector trends affecting their software journeys.

Briody commented: “The aim of the Ascend conference, and MRI’s priority over the past 15 months, has been to support our customers and help them navigate the ongoing uncertainty and market changes. The pandemic has accelerated many trends that were already taking place and acted as a catalyst for digital transformation. Despite not being able to see our clients and Partners face-to-face this year, we are incredibly proud to have continued our collaboration and innovation with the leading names in European real estate. Together, we have overcome the obstacles, emerging from the pandemic to help businesses of all types to build a stronger future.”

Learning, insight and best practice

The Ascend conference also showcased advances and updates across MRI’s product portfolio and offered advice on how users can optimise their systems and achieve even greater efficiencies, additional cost-savings and regulatory compliance. Across six dedicated content streams – Commercial, Investment & Planning, Residential, Agency, Social Housing and Workplace – just a few of the many session highlights were:

  • Lead your organisation into the new normal – how users can unleash the power of MRI’s comprehensive solution suite to achieve digital transformation.
  • Become a data superhero with the power of AI – how, with artificial intelligence as your ally, you can unlock true data-driven insights.
  • See the future, plan to win – exploring why, in an ultra-competitive and high-pressured environment, the time is now for tech in real estate investment.
  • Connected tech for connected residential communities – examining the residential technology ecosystem and how it can connect your business with the people and communities you serve.
  • Building safety & the resident voice – industry experts sharing their views on the cladding crisis, resident engagement and associated challenges.
  • Technology in social housing – taking a journey through a comprehensive solution suite for housing associations and local authorities.
  • Leveraging housing solutions – how advanced and integrated housing management systems can help you deliver better outcomes.
  • Reinvent the workplace – showcasing how purpose-built software can give you a 360-degree view of your buildings and facilities.
  • Optimising space management – looking at how a suite of tools can help you establish a safe and optimised return to work.

Also presenting as part of the agenda were several client speakers, discussing the technology vision for their businesses and the ways in which they leverage MRI’s broad platform. As well as Capco and Yorkshire Housing from the opening session, other contributors included Beyond Housing, FirstPort, Optivo, Network Rail, Savills and Settio – and our sincere thanks go to all who were involved.

And Ascend wouldn’t be Ascend without the involvement of our Partner network. We were delighted to welcome 10 key sponsors as part of the event:

Visionary sponsors:
Advanced, Fixflo, Proactis, REdirect Consulting

Executive sponsors:
insightsoftware, Localz, Retransform, TopUp Consultants

Professional sponsors:
AJB Consulting, Assetsoft


What’s next?

Ascend is just one component of our ongoing efforts to ensure clients extract maximum value from MRI’s solutions. There are so many ways you can get the information and resources you need about topics and challenges in the property sector – and about the latest and greatest functionality in the products you use every day.

myMRI Client Portal – utilise a range of resources, from release notes through to hints and tips videos. You can also raise Support and Services requests, access a growing Knowledgebase and submit ideas for future developments.

Events – you can catch us at a variety of events across the sector – from speaking slots on panels to our exhibition booths where we’re ready to help. You can also check out our programme of webinars and product user groups across our broad range of solutions.

Resources – here you’ll find an ever-growing range of white papers, ebooks, webinars, client case studies and much more. All of this is ready for you to access at any time.

And, of course, we look forward to the prospect of seeing you, our valued clients, once again next year (hopefully in person!) at our 2022 Ascend Europe event. Until then, thank you to every attendee, speaker and Partner that helped make this year’s conference one to remember.

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