10/18/2019 | The show

The multisensory experience cannot be copied by digital technologies

Interview with Björn Mathes on the future of ACHEMA

Since 2019, Dr. Björn Mathes is Member of the Executive Board at DECHEMA Exhibitions. We wanted to know how he sees his new role and what to expect from ACHEMA 2030.

Have you ever experienced ACHEMA as an “outsider” before your time at DECHEMA? What was your impression?

  • __ Dr, Björn Mathes: Yes, I have. During my time as a doctoral student, I was also responsible for the trade fair participations of our working group. In addition to several other national and international trade fairs, I got to know ACHEMA as an exhibitor. The experience was overwhelming – the sheer size of ACHEMA, the global character and of course the fact that it brings together so many international experts from all areas of the process industry. In addition to specific leads, this also resulted in valuable discussions with stand visitors who had completely different fields of expertise. Even then, we experienced the show as a melting pot of our industry.

What has been your experience with ACHEMA so far?

  • __ Since joining DECHEMA, I have been involved in various tasks during ACHEMA over the past decade. Among other things, I have been responsible for the organisation of the PRAXISforums at ACHEMA since 2015. This has become an extremely successful format that was introduced especially for the exhibitors to have an additional opportunity to showcase their technologies close to their exhibition group. My former team is also responsible for visitor services before and during ACHEMA, so I have always worked closely with colleagues from DECHEMA Exhibitions.

What fascinates you about your new job?

  • __ Working with a high-performance and competent team organising major events that bring people from all over the world together in a technological environment. And I am thrilled about the mid- and long­term tasks ahead of us: to further develop the concept of ACHEMA and maintaining and expanding its role as an innovation driver for the industry.

Be honest – in an age of digitalisation, who needs a trade show anymore?

  • __ I don’t see it that way. Clearly, the digitalisation of our society will continue. Just like any other sector, the trade fair industry must react to these developments. We have to question our business model as well as the way we execute it, from marketing to stand planning, and make necessary changes. But digitalisation is not the only trend relevant to our industry – we have to take global developments and macroeconomic conditions into account as well. However, the multisensory experience of an exhibition such as ACHEMA, which brings about 150,000 people from over 150 countries together to exchange professional information, but also to meet as individuals, cannot be copied with digital technologies yet. Marketing channels and lead generation are changing, but trade fairs will continue to play a central role in the future.

How will ACHEMA 2030 differ from ACHEMA 2018?

  • __ ACHEMA celebrates its centenary in 2020. In my opinion, this is a birthday which we as organisers can be proud of. On its journey, ACHEMA has experienced and survived several economic crises, a world war, and industrial revolutions. The trade fair concept was adapted time and again, and in some ways, ACHEMA has reinvented itself. This will continue to be the case in the future, but in times of constant change and changing markets, it is difficult to look beyond a decade.
    At present, there is a general trend – trade fairs are increasingly becoming happenings. The expectations of visitors and exhibitors regarding the flexibility and efficiency of a trade fair are also changing. We will address this in the further development of the ACHEMA concept.
    At the same time, major global issues and megatrends dominate the strategies of companies. The boundaries between industrial sectors are increasingly blurring when it comes to solutions, for example the energy sector or the change of business models driven by digitalisation. The convergence of the traditional process industry with the ICT sector will accelerate in the coming years. Therefore, we will make ACHEMA an even stronger platform that networks people beyond the traditional industry boundaries. At the same time, there will be external impulses and technological developments that will take the multisensory experience described above to a new level.

And what will remain the same?

  • __ We will continue to work hard to ensure that ACHEMA provides our participants, whether it be exhibitors or visitors, a platform that represents a melting pot of the process industry. ACHEMA will continue to focus on internationality and interdisciplinarity and to offer a mix of exhibition and congress as well as other interactive discussion and exchange formats.

What is the most fascinating place or moment at ACHEMA for you?

  • __ ACHEMA offers countless fascinating places and moments. The mere fact that ACHEMA brings together so many people from all over the world in one technology environment is fascinating. But the most electrifying moments are the days before the exhibition, when the empty halls start coming alive and the exhibition stands are growing until everything is set at the final opening on Monday morning.


Dr. Björn Mathes holds a PhD in Chemistry from Philipps-Universität Marburg and an MBA from HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and EADA Business School Barcelona. He started his professional career within the research and project coordination of DECHEMA e.V.. From 2014–2017, he was in charge of the B2B event format PRAXISforum. In April 2017 he assumed responsibility for the group “Conferences and Committee Support” within DECHEMA e.V. before being appointed to the Executive Board of DECHEMA Exhibitons in February 2019.


The interview was conducted by Kathrin Rübberdt.


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