13.04.2009 | Editor: Anke Geipel-Kern
ACHEMA is on course in spite of the economic and financial crisis. Exhibitor numbers and exhibition space occupied are on a par with three years ago and organizers are confident that the visitors will follow. And there’s plenty to discover from May 11 to May 15 in Frankfurt am Main, as is evident from the congress program alone, with its 900 presentations mirroring the diversity of the exhibition.
Crises are like diseases—they’re infectious. But then the immune system kicks in and part of that immune system appears to be ACHEMA.” Whether the picture painted by Dechema Chairman, Dr. Alfred Oberholz, at the ACHEMA 2009 business press conference is accurate will only become clear once the exhibition is over.
At the moment, the international situation does not appear to be particularly rosy due to the global economic crisis. Even countries such as China and India are currently suffering from the economic collapse. China’s economy grew by “only” just under seven percent in 2008, and in 2009 experts are reckoning on five to six percent—a massive downturn following years of double-digit growth rates. India’s growth rate has also fallen off from nine to some six percent. So what is the way out of the crisis? In the short term, the economic stimulus packages implemented by a great many governments should help. The Asian countries are ahead of the field here, with China having announced four trillion yuan (€ 450 billion) to be allocated to social programs, infrastructure projects, technical innovation and environmental protection. Added to this are tax relief and investment in the health care system aimed at stabilizing the economy. The USA is supporting the banks and injecting $ 730 million of finance for SMEs, as well as reconstructing power supply networks for $ 4.4 billion and investing in energy efficiency, environmental protection and social programs—an overall package of $ 787 billion.
Yet in spite of these figures, the signals for ACHEMA are set at green and the statistics speak for themselves. The international flagship of the processing industry continues to steer a steady course. Exhibitor figures (3,694) and exhibition space occupied (134,000 m2) are almost on a par with the vintage year of 2006, and all the signs are that exhibitors are not about to experience a collapse in their visitor numbers either. “In spite of the difficult attendant circumstances, our exhibitors remain loyal to us, and we are very grateful for that,” observes Dechema Chief Executive Prof. Gerhard Kreysa. The trend toward internationalization continues unabated. After Germany, the strongest contingents are from Italy (296 exhibitors), United Kingdom (200 exhibitors), Switzerland (161 exhibitors), USA (150 exhibitors) and France (122 exhibitors). However, not only is it interesting to see the absolute figures but also the increases compared to the last ACHEMA: China is in the lead here with an increase of 57 to 118 exhibitors, ahead of India (87 to 102 exhibitors), and lower down the rankings Poland with 23 exhibitors compared to 14 in 2006. It’s a sure sign that these countries have moved on from being the extended workbench of the West to becoming autonomous players, who are able to come up with innovations themselves. Nevertheless, Kreysa does not regard this simply as a threat as a result of the increasing competition but also an opportunity for a productive exchange to which the emerging economies—with their hunger for development, their own experience and backgrounds and their huge potential of well-educated scientists and technicians—can contribute a great deal.
To get an impression of the exhibition’s entire spectrum, just take a look at the list of exhibitor groups. It is traditional for pumps, compressors, valves and fittings to be the biggest sector, and this also holds for 2009. This group is followed by laboratory and analytical equipment, thermal and mechanical processes as well as plant engineering and pharmaceutical, packaging and storage systems. If you are planning a plant, you’ll find everything you need here—from the entire process down to a single valve, from control systems through analytical systems—and everything is state-of-the-art.
With more than 900 presentations, the ACHEMA Congress is on the same scale as last time. The number of parallel sessions is however limited to 18, including one of the biggest nanotechnology events in Europe this year. There are several sessions on process intensification in the program, with topics ranging from individual components to entire concepts, such as biotechnology materials, waste avoidance and formulation technology, including laboratory and analytical equipment and ionic liquids—and all of a high scientific standard and great practical relevance.
As well as the core program consisting of the exhibition and congress, numerous guest and collaboration events complete and support the program. As in 2006, this includes the Namur Expert Round Tables in Hall 10. From Monday noon to Friday noon, experts will discuss current issues in instrumentation, control and automation technology around the theme of “Automation in dialog”.
Practical relevance and biotechnology come together in the “Industrial biotechnology exhibition and partnering conference”. On May 12–13, 2009, national and international research institutions and companies will present application-oriented and market-ready products and services and have the opportunity to acquire partners for collaboration.
On May 12, the ACHEMA worldwide economic forum addresses the burning issue of “China’s energy strategy and perspectives”. On May 13, a presentation will update exhibition goers on “Sustainable chemical engineering made in France”.
So given the huge range on offer, how do visitors plan their schedules? The printed program is a good place to start to get an overview—not just of the day’s events but also of the overall program. If you are looking for specific issues, exhibitors or speakers, these can be found online using Dechema’s search functions (see InfoClick). PDA and cell phone users also have their own internet platform. Right through to route planning, this is the place to plan your tour of ACHEMA. Those requiring more detailed information about products or potential partners for collaboration should take a look at the Woice database which came online in March for all potential users and provides a wealth of information on all exhibitors and other companies and institutions.
The general topics which have set the tone at ACHEMA for three decades have lost none of their relevance; on the contrary, those wishing to obtain information on biotechnology and environment protection will discover around 1,000 international exhibitors in each of these areas. The theme of this year’s special show “Chemistry and biotechnology for renewable resources” covers both. Even now, biomass has become an important source of energy throughout Europe, with 70 percent of renewable energies coming from forests or energy plants that grow in the fields. But renewable raw materials are not limited in their use to providing a source of energy: the chemical industry can also profit from them.
The biggest crowd-puller is the Bioconcept Car on view as part of the special show, which is a long-range racing car whose non-load bearing body parts, such as the doors, hood and spoiler, are made of natural fiber reinforced biopolymers of flax and linseed oil acrylate. Natural fiber reinforced plastics have been used as a construction material in automobile interiors, e.g. in door linings, for many years now. This project allows developers to show how plant-based materials can hold their own perfectly well, even in extreme applications.
ACHEMA will hopefully provide answers to all these and many more questions and will be a great opportunity for all those looking for new approaches to supplying energy and raw materials to amass new ideas.
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