Thomas Scheuring on Organizing the ACHEMA Exhibition

Thomas Scheuring on Organizing the ACHEMA Exhibition

Author: Vera Köster/Photo: DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e. V. (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology)

The monolith DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e. V. (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology) was recently split into three organizations.

  • In the center, the nonprofit DECHEMA society provides all services, including conferences and decision papers, in the same way, quality and amount as before.
  • The exhibition activities, first of all the ACHEMA this year, but also, for example, the ACHEMASIA, are now handled by a limited liability company (GmbH).
  • The research institute, the Karl-Winnacker-Institut of DECHEMA, became an independent nonprofit foundation.

Dr. Thomas Scheuring, CEO of the newly founded DECHEMA Ausstellungs-GmbH, spoke to Dr. Vera Köster for ChemView magazine about what the reorganization means for the upcoming ACHEMA, the high points of organizing an exhibition, and how exhibitions differ in Europe and Asia.

What is the main advantage of the new organization for the exhibition activities?

As a limited liability company, separate from the nonprofit DECHEMA society, we now can offer things and services to our customers we could not offer before and by this, move closer to our customers.

For instance, the partnering portal which we now offer to our exhibiting customers to get in touch with each other, was not a viable option before. Exhibitors and visitors now can register two months in advance of the event and the system matches cooperation requests and offers and creates an individual meeting schedule either at exhibition stands or in a dedicated partnering area.

So this is a first, immediate change to be seen at the upcoming ACHEMA in June. Can you say something about changes in the long run?

We see changes for us in the chance to cooperate with commercial partners. As a charitable organization, we could only have cooperations with other nonprofit associations. Now we can work together, for instance, with commercial partners like a traide fair corporation.

What is special about the 30th ACHEMA?

I wouldn’t connect it to the jubilee of the ACHEMA. ACHEMA and its quality are standing for the same as it used to. We have, as always, very interesting hot topics and the main focal topic for this ACHEMA is the sector of energy, energy turnaround in general and the options to store and transport energy.

The second focal topic this year is called Biobased World. Here we try to show the value chain which will be the basis of the bio-based economy. We do this by discussing new ideas, products, technologies and strategies around the areas of biomass, bio-based chemicals, biofuels, biogas and biorefinery.

How do you find these topics? Or how do you know what industry is actually interested in?

This is the big advantage of DECHEMA as a whole. We are not just an event organizer, but we are really intensely embedded in our community.

We really try to have close connections on a scientific or topical basis to what our industry is discussing. We have many research committees and working groups in very broad fields on different topics meeting here at the DECHEMA. This allows us to be really close to single subcommunities within our industry and to be at the pulse of our community. We take part in discussing their actual problems, and hear what they are dealing with and trying to develop. The reflux of information from these committees is the source of developing new topics for the next exhibition.

This is a very different approach from what a regular exhibition or trade fair organizer does. For them it is hard or impossible to identify trends at an early stage.

How long does it take to prepare for an event?

The preparation phase for ACHEMA is roughly two years. It builds up from a rather slow starting period to a, of course, quite hectic time at the end.

You organize the ACHEMA and the ACHEMASIA. Are there differences between Asia and Europe?

The networking approach is quite different in Asia from what happens in Europe. It is more formal and it is more difficult to get in touch with the right people. With the ACHEMASIA we offer the international companies a platform for this networking with their Asian customers that is adapted to the customs in Asia. However, what then happens at an exhibition booth always is a matter of the people who are there.

Also, of course, the bureaucracy is quite different, and working through it for us as a foreign organizer in China is much more challenging than it is here for the ACHEMA. But this is not something the attendee or exhibitor would see.

Do you think in the future it will be necessary to have big physical exhibitions like ACHEMA or ACHEMASIA, or do you think we will have more web-based forms of exchange and networking?

I think the web-based networking plays a very important role already nowadays and this will increase. But I think it will increase in terms that it will help people prepare for the face-to-face meeting better than was possible previously.

What fascinates you most about organizing these big events?

The most inspiring part for me is the time when we as organizers physically move over to the fairgrounds. You see all these empty halls which then begin to be filled with the exhibition material, step by step. To see everything that you have prepared for two years fit nicely together is a very exciting and nice moment. I am always thrilled by this period of time.

How did you get involved in the organization of exhibitions?

From my education I am a physical chemist. I started my career working at different positions within DECHEMA and after a while I felt the excitement the exhibition sector offered and I felt very tempted to go in that direction.

Is it an advantage being a chemist in this field?

Yes, at some points it is very helpful. You are an adequate discussion partner for your customers. A basic understanding of what they are doing is helpful for having adequate talks.

Do you still visit lots of chemistry related conferences?

I try to take advantage of what is happening here at DECHEMA. However, I am not always very successful in taking advantage, because of the daily workload.

Thank you very much, Dr. Scheuring, for the interview.

Thomas Scheuring
studied physical chemistry before joining the DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e. V. (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology). Here, he worked in several positions before being promoted to his current role of CEO of the newly founded DECHEMA Ausstellungs-GmbH, where he is responsible for the planning and organizing of events such as the world leading forum of the process industry, ACHEMA, and its counterpart in Asia, ACHEMASIA.

Also of interest:

  • German Chemistry Success
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  • ACHEMA Reporter
    Students talk to the ACHEMA exhibitors for the most interesting news on behalf of Wiley-VCH journals
  • ACHEMA 2012 Overview
    Overview of some of the major events at the world’s flagship event in Frankfurt, Germany

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