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Shaping the future

"Trade shows are much more digital than you think!"

Together with the tech incubator ZOLLHOF, NürnbergMesse is developing digital ways of thinking and services that benefit exhibitors and visitors.

Learning from each other is the focus of the cooperation between tech incubator ZOLLHOF and NürnbergMesse. In this interview, Benjamin Bauer, Managing Director of ZOLLHOF, and Dr. Martin Kassubek, Vice President Corporate & Digital Development at NürnbergMesse, talk about the goals of the new cooperation and the trade fair of the future.

Mr. Bauer, what is the Tech-Incubator ZOLLHOF?

Benjamin Bauer: The Tech-Incubator is a breeding ground for young start-ups. Our focus is on technology companies that have developed a product and want to bring it to market with us or make it further successful. We currently offer 26 companies the space to grow and develop their products together with established companies. For digital start-ups, we want to be the hub in the region with prospects for the whole of Germany and Europe.

Benjamin Bauer and Martin Kassubek

Benjamin Bauer and Martin Kassubek in conversation.

Dr. Kassubek, you head the new "Digital Office" at NürnbergMesse. Why does the digital transformation affect the core business of an exhibition organizer?

Dr. Martin Kassubek: We are convinced that trade fairs will continue to be the main component of our value creation in the coming decades. But we also notice that marketing decision-makers of Generation Y are moving up and that the instrument "trade fair" is changing with them.

What is the role of the cooperation with the ZOLLHOF?

Kassubek: We can't just flip a switch according to the motto: From today only digital! Together with efficient partners, also from the region, we are tackling the digital transformation. The ZOLLHOF is enormously relevant because the start-ups develop many new approaches that benefit us. In the same way, the ZOLLHOF is a contact point for our employees who are facing digital challenges. A lot of knowledge comes together in the ZOLLHOF, for example at "learning events", where we actively get involved. Conversely, the start-ups should benefit from the "trade fair playing field".

Together with powerful partners, we are tackling the digital transformation.

Mr. Bauer, where do you see the digital starting points for start-ups on the "trade fair playing field"?

Bauer: Trade fairs are much more digital than people actually think! The entire value chain of a trade fair offers approaches for digital products or processes. Basically, the mistake is to only digitalise the end product. In fact, it's about the entire value creation process. At the trade fair, for example, with the huge parking space management, the invitation and participant management or the stand construction with new digital presentation forms such as virtual or augmented reality. Starting points for digitalization are available from the moment of registration for the trade fair.

Martin Kassubek and Benjamin Bauer

Digital ways of thinking and services for the exhibition business: Martin Kassubek (l., NürnbergMesse) and Benjamin Bauer (ZOLLHOF).

Let's look a few years ahead: What does "the trade fair of the future" look like?

Kassubek: The trade fairs of the future will take place in Nuremberg and at our worldwide locations. The analogue HUB will remain. But there will be much greater contact between online and analogue - as we say: online and onsite are not mutually exclusive, but complement each other. It is conceivable that the trade fair will serve as a business platform in a certain cycle as a highlight of the industry. New technologies can be integrated into this event, such as MyLocation - our wayfinding system on the trade fair grounds - a completely digital admission system or VR and AR applications for the trade fair presentation. The question for us is therefore: How can we integrate these technologies into our services?

Bauer: The development of the "trade fair of the future" is also primarily about processes: How does NürnbergMesse digitalize itself as a company? After all, an exhibition company is much more than what the exhibitor and visitor sees. The digital transformation takes place with the employees. That's why it's important to bring them along and show them new possibilities: What do digital processes and a digital business mean? This is exactly what can take place here in the ZOLLHOF.

The digital transformation takes place with the employee.

The ZOLLHOF as an educational institution of digitalization?

Bauer: Exactly! Events are also held here - know-how events with experts in digitization on topics such as new methods of work or technologies such as crypto currrencies, block chain. The ZOLLHOF is also a place to learn about technologies. In addition to the lectures, there are interactive formats in which employees can participate. At the university hackathon, for example, employees can absorb new knowledge away from the usual working atmosphere and put it into practice when developing their own products.

What are the next steps within the cooperation?

Dr. Kassubek: The first step is to give our employees access to new knowledge. Because the digital transformation affects the entire company, all departments should participate in a decentralized manner. With the ZOLLHOF in Nuremberg, we have a great program on site with many activities where we can exchange knowledge and learn new perspectives in a spirit of partnership. This is our first joint target for 2018! We will then gradually move on to interesting projects that we have identified for NürnbergMesse in the ZOLLHOF.

Maximilian Hensel
Online Editorial // Press Officer, Corporate Communications
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Image credits:

  • Foto: NürnbergMesse/Thomas Geiger