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Interview to Donald Wich, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Italy

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We interviewed Donald Wich, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Italy, and asked him for some anticipation on the Autumn edition of Light + Building, which will be held from 2 to 6 October 2022 in Frankfurt am Main.

Donald, it is a great pleasure for me to meet you again a few weeks from the start of Light + Building Autumn Edition, which promises to be the real restart point for the lighting and smart building industries after the long pandemic-related break. Referring to the history of this important event, what have been the key success factors that, in over twenty years, have made it the most important trade fair in the world for these sectors?

Since its first edition in 2000, Light + Building has been the answer to a strong and collective demand from these sectors. There was a need to create an international event that could offer in a single place and time such a complete selection including the lighting industry and the smart services for building and home automation. The associations that founded the project together with us and the international key players who immediately supported it, contributed to making the fair an unmissable event. The fair is the right combination between being a stage for innovations and technologies, connected to lighting and building automation, two rapidly growing sectors and catalysts of the 21st century, and representing a recognized place for discussion and debate on the current issues related to these categories. Light + Building has been focusing on the theme of energy efficiency and sustainable energy management since the very beginning, it is still today topical for the whole world and consequently also for the fair, and it will remain a fundamental focus also over the years to come. In the last twenty years the light and building industries have undergone many transformations and important developments which have impacted also on our fair, where exhibitors can present their innovations to the whole world, and operators can search for them to advance their activities. Nowadays more than ever, there is a strong desire for new ideas and new developments from designers, architects, trade and retail professionals, and it is essential for us as organizers to always provide the right solution. The next edition of Light + Building will be the eleventh: we are talking about a relatively “young” fair but with enormous potential and international recognition. With the evolutions in the related sectors it has provided important contributions and the synergistic combination it has always had between design and technology has proven to be a win-win solution.

And which are, on the other hand, the online services introduced in the last two years – I am thinking for example of Contactor, the temporal extension in the pre- and post-fair, or the match making module, which allows you to make targeted appointments optimizing times – which have mostly helped to consolidate the vision of a leading trade fair for the companies, which have returned numerous onsite, to the point of having over 1,500 exhibitors from 46 different countries?

2022 made us understand how important personal encounters are, both in the workplace and in the private sphere. But another thing is equally clear: the digital sphere is just as important. This is exactly what we add to the physical fair. How? We communicate 365 days a year in an integrated, dynamic and transversal way, and we do it in all sectors of Light + Building. The 2022 edition will present a wide variety of new digital features oriented, of course, to the needs of both exhibitors and visitors: these services are included precisely in the Light + Building Contactor, which is an evolution of the fair’s search engine. The physical event remains the heart of the fair and will take place in Frankfurt from 2 to 6 October, but at the same time, from 2 to 14 October, the Light + Building Digital Extension, a web platform offering numerous features, will be active. The exhibitors, in addition to taking advantage of their own advanced and detailed presentation, will have an online international place where to contact their customers before the fair, thus organizing for example the agenda of appointments in advance. But they will be able to talk and present themselves also to those potential visitors who, for various reasons, will still have travel restrictions and will not be able to attend the fair. Companies can also include streaming product presentations, webinars or booth tours. To give further value to this tool, I emphasize the advanced matchmaking process based on artificial intelligence that connects the right visitors with the right exhibitors and products. On an ongoing basis, until the next edition in 2024, we will therefore leave the Contactor online, which in effect represents the search engine dedicated to lighting and building automation.

So what are the main innovations that exhibitors and visitors will find in Frankfurt from 2 to 6 October?

The main innovations will certainly come from the exhibiting companies: among these we find the majority of international manufacturers from all industries of lighting, home and building technology and network security technology. So we can confirm an overlapping and synergistic exchange at Light + Building. In this edition especially, we note how well represented is the construction sector, concretely located in the West wing of ​​the exhibition center. Particularly in view of the digitalization and the electrification required to achieve the Climate Goals, the importance of this sector is growing and all the key players will be present at the fair. The lighting sector has experienced more M&A cases and many European companies have been acquired by large international groups, but foreign companies in particular are taking advantage of the opportunity to present themselves here. Social developments and the conditions of the political framework also have an influence on the market and on how we are all interconnected. So the pillars that will be the fil rouge of speeches, events and appointments at the fair can be divided into 3 thematic areas. The first one is that of digitization, which we know to be an important trend for companies, the second one concerns sustainability, which is at the top of everyone’s priorities as never before. We will also talk about the ever greater connection between the two worlds of light and design.

And finally, as CEO of Messe Frankfurt Italia, is there a message you want to address in particular to the many Italian companies that are reading this interview and that, with their aesthetic and technological content, have confirmed also for this edition their support to Light + Building and, more generally, to the great care and professionalism of your entire team?

We are aware that the past few years have severely challenged Italian manufacturing companies and trade, and speaking specifically of Light + Building, we had to postpone the event several times in the trade fair calendar, thus leading to upheavals also in the investment plans of the same companies. Despite this, we can confirm that Italy is the most represented foreign nation among exhibitors (after Germany). We have had proof, despite the persistence of this situation of uncertainty, that companies continue to trust in the fair, and to recognize it as a fundamental communication and networking channel. We kept a constant dialogue and discussion with the companies of our Country, trying, where possible, to meet their requests and needs. Just as our customers have been called upon to adapt to particular conditions and criticalities, we too, although on the other hand, have had to concentrate even more our commitment to keep our role active. Our team has reacted very well and has adapted to the ever faster changes and to the new needs of our Group, and it has done so by confirming Messe Frankfurt Italia as a company capable of facing the changes in the market. Basically, I believe that the crisis has taught us that the key to evolution lies precisely in change and in knowing how to adapt to it.

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