EXPERT INTERVIEW Outlook on Berlins next transport technology trade fairs with Matthias Steckmann
Due to the ongoing corona pandemic, the InnoTrans planned for September 2020 has been postponed to September 2022. In this interview with Matthias Steckmann, Head of the Mobility & Services Division at Messe Berlin GmbH, we take a look at Messe Berlin's future transport technology trade fairs in the next two years.
Mr. Steckmann, before we attempt a constructive look into the future - how have you and the InnoTrans team experienced the year 2020?
We have experienced something new in the successful history of InnoTrans and our IZB in Wolfsburg. Let me be honest: our entire team, at InnoTrans as well as at MES Expo and IZB, has mastered the challenges of the past twelve months in an outstanding manner. A strong team is characterized by the fact that we all worked together for the event every day, even in such dynamic times. Each individual contributed ideas to the limits of their capabilities. Trade fairs are pure passion, and we all enjoy working for this every day - for our customers and our visitors.
After you had postponed the original date in September 2020 to next April, unfortunately, this date could not be held either. What reactions do you get from the industry?
We agreed with the industry's leading players that InnoTrans can only be held internationally and to the usual extent that it meets the quality standards. In the interests of all those involved, we have decided to postpone it once again to guarantee the high quality of InnoTrans as the leading marketing platform for the industry in the long term and, above all, to provide planning security for all participants. We have received exclusively positive feedback on this decision. The consistently high number of registrations speaks for itself, and many international exhibitors who had previously dropped out due to the uncertainty surrounding Corona have already registered again. We are delighted about this and are very grateful for this trust.
The MES Expo, a future-oriented mobility fair, will take place in November 2021. What impact will the pandemic have on your next event?
The MES Expo will take place, as you say, a year from now. In times of a pandemic, that is an eternity, and the effects are impossible to predict at the moment. The MES Expo is characterized by its concept covering all transport systems, which is unique. This makes it a platform for numerous companies from various sectors. The social demand for climate-friendly and sustainable transport alternatives poses extensive technological challenges for the mobility industry. Since its premiere in November 2019, MES Expo has supported the electronics supply industry as a pioneer for innovative future mobility. The trade fair concept, which spans all transport systems and is aimed at the electronics supplier industry, offers exhibitors and trade visitors from the rail, commercial vehicle, and automotive sectors an intermodal platform for interdisciplinary and global exchange for the first time. Thanks to its specific core target groups, the mobility fair functions as a marketing platform covering all transport concepts. At the first event in 2019, the lively participation of international market leaders such as CRRC, Knorr-Bremse, or Mitsubishi Electrics - besides up-and-coming start-ups - showed that this utterly unique event concept is working.
Particularly in mobility, we have been experiencing a high level of dynamic technological progress for years, regardless of the pandemic.InnoTrans has always been the place for exchange between market participants - flanked by over 3500 meter dedicated tracks specially built for the trade fair. With this picture in mind, what approaches do you see for digital compensation formats around the time until the next InnoTrans in 2022?
Let me return to MES Expo 2019 - I was very enthusiastic about our supporting program's high demand, organized by our partner associations VDB, DVF, and ZVEI. Experts from all over the world came to our stand to exchange ideas and inform themselves about new products. We experience the same at InnoTrans on a larger scale. We see digital offers, such as our InnoTrans Preview in the Virtual Marketplace, as an add-on service. It offers the opportunity to obtain information about a company and its products throughout the year, make direct contact, or participate in its webinars. We will continue to develop this service further. However, it only supplements trade fair events, especially personal physical contact. The events at our exhibition center are what our international trade visitors want. The numbers of webinars or previews are good, but by far not comparable to an InnoTrans. We have found that digital networking does not have the effect of an InnoTrans Live. I am still convinced that there is no substitute for physical presence, especially at trade fairs for the capital goods industry. You have to experience InnoTrans on site.
New mobility concepts are en vogue, electric mobility, hybrid models, and mobility as a service in future mobility. Railway systems have been transporting us and our goods for centuries, and most experts assume that they will continue to exist. What challenges are there in a market that is future-proof?
I'm not particularly eager to make market predictions that experts can do much better. However, even future-proof sectors are subject to globalization and the laws of the market. As trade fair organizers, we have been observing for a long time that the concentration of companies in the mobility industry is continuing and increasing. On the one hand, the challenges we face are to provide a platform for the companies that have been operating locally up to now and that want and need to enter the international market. As the world's leading trade fair, InnoTrans is ideally suited to this.
On the other hand, we also want to offer new market participants a platform with cross-interface and future-oriented exhibition areas. For example, I am thinking of the latest InnoTrans theme area, "Mobility+," which deals with the important topic of the "last mile."
One last question for you as an insider: When will your international visitors arrive at the exhibition center using autonomous public transport?
At the MES Expo, we already had an autonomously driving vehicle. Who knows, maybe we can surprise you at MES Expo 2021.
Mr. Steckmann, thank you for this interview.