In a sense, this will be a time of reflection for two business conferences jointly held by McMaster University this week.

Starting Wednesday, the Hamilton university will host the fifth World Congress on Intellectual Capital

and the third World Conference on Electronic Commerce. One of the main topics will be surviving — and hopefully thriving — in a downtrodden business economy, according to faculty coordinator Nick Bontis, who teaches at McMaster’s DeGroote Business School.

“”I wanted to definitely target more IT case studies,”” he says. “”Many of these deal with organizations that are in effect now trying to revitalize or replenish a lot of that IT investment.””

One of the speakers, for example, is Bill DiNardo, founder and CEO of, who will chair a session called “”From concept to commercialization.””

“”Bill NiNardo is coming in and speaking about he has tried to maintain the momentum on that particular company, given that many other organizations in his sector like Webvan and some of the other American counterparts have closed up shop,”” says Bontis. “”There’s a lot of first-person accounts of what we’ve done to survive the last 12 months.””

Other speakers scheduled for the conference include Frank Clegg, president of Microsoft Canada; Howard Deane, national director of knowledge management at KPMG; Bob Young, chairman of Linux distributor Red Hat Inc.; and Bontis himself, who in addition to teaching is chief knowledge officer for Vancouver-based knowledge management firm Enterprises.

Bontis anticipates 400 delegates from 35 countries for the conference — 50 per cent academic, 50 per cent practitioners from public and private sectors. That’s down from last year’s total of 536 delegates. Bontis attributes the shortfall to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He says he was flooded with e-mail cancellations the day after the attacks and the university actually considered postponing the event.

McMaster’s business students will play a large role at the conference. They are handling all the registrations and hotel bookings, but many will be there in the hopes of finding a job. It’s a valuable networking opportunity and there will be a job fair with companies, mostly from Ontario.

The past year has seen applications to the business school skyrocket, says Bontis, as many undergraduate students look to delay their entry into the workforce and stay in school a few years longer.

“”All the young undergraduates who were waiting to get their first employment were kind of sitting on the sidelines for the last year,”” he says. “”As the market tanked, they’re all thinking that now’s the perfect time to do their MBA.””

The Intellectual Capital and Electronic Commerce Congresses will continue until Friday, Jan. 18.

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