TENSION IN the conference room at Loughborough University could be cut with a knife as the finalists of the 2007 Merit construction competition waited to hear the winners announced.
Organisers suppressed giggles as they prepared to shock their audience with the most dramatic nish to the competition since it began two decades ago.
Merit is an acronym for Management, Enterprise, Risk, Innovation and Teamwork. It is a construction management computer simulation that enables the teams to run virtual companies.
Six teams had battled for two days as the directors of companies, and competed for jobs, staff and most importantly the coveted ICE salver for the winners.
After stealing and retaining the lead since the first round of the final, Claverton Crusaders (Wessex Engineering & Construction Services) seemed untouchable. But in an unpredictable and unprecedented finish, the five-man team from Bath plunged into third place stunning themselves and their competitors.
With fourth, th and sixth places already awarded to the Promeritum Victor de Lagentium (Costain/Mouchel Parkman), aah! Bisto (Mott MacDonald) and Midnight Predators (Mouchel Parkman) respectively, expectation was heaped on Motts Hot Shots: Part Deux:
Part Deux (Mott Macdonald), last year's winners and runners up in the penultimate round.
But the team failed to progress leaving Atkins Bridging the Gap team to steal victory.
The team was led by Chris Brock, ably supported by Sammy Yip, Ken Lam and Nelson Ng.
They received the coveted ICE salver from the Engineering Management Board chairman Martin Kennard. Winning team members also won personal mementos and each received £500 personal training prize.
Brains behind the competition, Loughborough University Civil & Building Engineering lecturer Mike Fletcher summed up the event.
'Merit is as unpredictable as real life at times, and in a dramatic twist in the nal round, Bridging the Gap lived up to their name by closing the gap on the leaders, and winning by a mere seven points from the Motts Hot Shots: Part Deux: Part Deux team. Amazingly only 13 points separated the top 3 teams at the end, the closest finish ever.' 'Going into the final as leaders, last year's champions Motts Hot Shots: Part Deux: Part Deux were hoping to become the first team ever to win Merit twice on the trot. But, with only 200 points separating the teams going into the nal it looked like they would have their work cut out.' Fletcher says the competition 'provides the essentials for construction professionals to augment their technical knowledge with the managerial skills required to run a modern construction company.' Participants group together in teams of up to six to run their own fictional company, making decisions affecting the key functions of the business.
The competition is organised and run by Loughborough University, and supported by the ICE the Construction Industry Training Board, and a number of industry partners.
This year was the largest competition yet, involving 275 teams from 67 different organisations, 'enabling around 1,500 construction professionals to benefit from the learning experience that the simulation offers, ' claims Fletcher.
'There were teams from contractors, consultants, utility companies and government organisations, and many different countries were represented, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, South Africa, Turkey and Hong Kong.' The first part of the competition, known as the Early Years was run over eight weeks between February and March.
During this time the Merit website displayed a league table of all competing teams, along with other information about the competition.
The top 6 teams at the end of the Early Years were invited to compete in an intensive two day final, known as the Final Years, held last week at Loughborough University.
Of the teams that completed the Early Years, 99% nished with stronger, more sustainable companies than they started with, a testament to the high levels of application and ability of those that took part.
Each year a Sponsors' Championship is held within the Merit competition. Companies entering more than two teams automatically have a shot at this second prize. The score of all the company's teams' performances in the Early Years is averaged and the company with the highest average wins the Sponsor's Championship.
This year the award was won by Wessex Engineering & Construction Services.
As the creator of the game, Loughborough University is able to adapt it based on feedback from the previous year's competition. This has the added bonus of making every competition slightly different.
Registration for Merit 2008 will start in November.
Further details about the Merit 2007 Competition can be found on the website at http: //merit. lboro. ac. uk