Brussels: a platform for French and Belgian dialogue

On 19 May this year, Paris Region Entreprises – the Paris Region Economic Development Agency – and Promosalons – the global network for promoting French trade shows – held a day of meetings and discussions on the subject of “The Industry of the Future: Managing the digital transition successfully.”

Seven directors of flagship French trade shows from the construction, environment, energy and industry sectors together with Belgian and European specialists shared their expertise on three key subjects: “The digital industry: a new approach to production”, “Digital technology in the construction industry of the future” and “The new circular and low-carbon means of production”.
The event was opened by Madame Patricia Pouliquen, Head of the Trade Commission at the French Embassy in Brussels, who underlined the importance of bilateral trade between France and Belgium (France is Belgium’s 3rd largest supplier and 2nd largest market). Her words were echoed by Mr Emmanuel Pieters, Head of the digital agenda unit within Belgian minister Alexander Decroo’s office, who brought the morning to a close. The day was an opportunity to outline to Belgian policy-makers and influencers the many business opportunities Paris Region and its trade shows offer Belgian companies.

Paris Region, a strategic region to invest in

“Paris Region has a very strong relationship with Belgium: nearly 1 million Belgian tourists visit us each year,” said Franck Margain, chairman of Paris Region Entreprises, “and Belgian businesses in the region account for 31,000 jobs.
“Paris region is highly attractive to international businesses because of the size of its market, its transport infrastructure, available workforce and concentration of research centres around the capital,” continued Frédérique de Bast, Head of International Marketing, Paris Region Entreprises. “There’s the tourist Greater Paris, the business Greater Paris, and there’s also the industry Greater Paris because Paris Region is not only the cradle of traditional industries, it is also France’s number one industrial hub. Everyone is gearing up for the industry of the future. And the region has two powerful advantages: the continued existence of a strong industrial base and the outstanding power of digital technology.”
“The role of Paris Region Entreprises is to help international business set up in Paris Region. We provide a wide array of services of all kinds: legal, fiscal, HR, real estate etc.” added Franck Margain. “In 2015, we welcomed 350 new companies which will generate 10,000 jobs when they are up to full speed. In other words they’re taking a long-term gamble in our region that will prove a winner.”

Innovative international trade shows offering major business opportunities

Promosalons CEO Corinne Moreau reminded attendees that France is a major trade show organising country: “Over 450 international exhibitions are held in France, including 320 trade shows covering a wide range of sectors, 250 of them in Paris Region. One of the strengths of these shows is that they really bring the world together, with one in three visitors and almost 50% of the exhibitors from outside France. Belgian professionals have a strong presence: each year more than 40,000 Belgian visitors and 2,000 exhibitors travel to shows in France.
Thierry Hesse, Chairman of UNIMEV (the French event industry association), and Vice-Chairman of Promosalons emphasised “the importance of the industry, construction and environment shows which attract some 8,300 Belgian visitors and 460 exhibitors, representing a significant proportion of Belgian participants in the French trade shows (11–12%). However, these rankings and figures indicate there is still market share to be gained at these shows, which are key business platforms for Belgian companies, especially SMEs, enabling them to find new opportunities, meet their customers and break into export markets.”
Thierry Hesse also gave figures for “the business generated by the French trade shows, in excess of 30 billion in sales for a total of 42,000 companies between October 2013 and October 2014 , and a return on investment of €8 for every €1 invested”.
Yves Paindaveine, Coordinator of the EU’s Digitising European Industry strategy then gave an update on the state of the industry and the challenges that lie ahead at European level.

Cutting-edge trade shows

The first panel session discussed the adaptation of production methods to meet the new challenges created by the 4th industrial revolution. Paul Peeters, Lead Expert for the Belgian Federation for the Technology Industry, Agoria, outlined the key operational focuses for the digitisation of a manufacturing plant and explained all the subtleties of implementation. Fabienne Legall, Director of Marketing & Communications, Industry Division for Reed Expositions (Midest) contended that “subcontracting is the cornerstone of the industry of the future thanks to the know-how that is at the service of all industry sectors both as a result of professions undergoing a sea-change and due to major technological developments.” This view was reinforced by Benoît Gauthier, Consultant for the Industry & Smart Industries trade shows, who underlined the importance of holding several complementary industry events at the same time (“convergence”) so as to bring together the entire industry value chain in France and promote the Industry of the Future project and the stakeholders, solutions and know-how of all the sectors involved.

Then the second panel session highlighted the importance of the construction sector in the improvement of manufacturing productivity, quality and sustainability. According to Cécile Touret, Organiser of the Carrefour International du Bois timber show: “Timber is increasingly being used in construction in France and in Europe. In France, some 10 to 15% of buildings have a timber frame. And I am convinced that the construction industry of the future will use wood extensively.”

Guillaume Loizeaud, Director of Reed Expositions’ Construction Division, went on to emphasise that the transition to digital is reflected at the Mondial du Bâtiment show with an innovative new area, The Building of the Future, where all these new technologies converge based on a holistic approach from design through to operation.
Catherine Bernard-Darlet, Communications Manager (Intermat, World of Concrete and Interoute & Ville), strongly emphasised the presence of exhibitors offering solutions to the challenges associated with intelligent infrastructure at the various shows under her management.
Ulrich Paetzold, CEO of the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) put the BIM revolution into perspective by arguing that BIM was above all the use of common sense combined with today’s technology. Joris Vuerstaek, Engineering Director for the VK Group went on to define and illustrate innovative digitisation concepts in the field of construction (BREEAM, smart grid, BIM etc.).

Lastly, the 3rd panel session gave an overview of the latest technological and organisational advances, which are vital for meeting the challenge of a competitive, eco-friendly industry: “It is crucial to transform all business activities, to rationalise and decentralise resource management but also to reduce energy consumption, increase the use of renewable energies and develop the energy mix,” asserted Stéphanie Gay-Torrente, Director of the Pollutec & World Efficiency shows. Maarten Dubois, Senior Manager at Ernst & Young, sustainability and cleantech expert, illustrated the concept of the circular economy with numerous examples from very different sectors.

All these issues are central to the upcoming editions of the Paris Region trade shows which, as well as being key B2B events, are forums for discussing innovations in the fields of industry, the environment and construction. Acting as think tanks, the Paris trade shows are synonymous with innovation, buoyant trends and technologies of the future.
Must-attend events:

  • 1–3 June 2016: CARREFOUR INTERNATIONAL DU BOIS, Europe’s number one timber exhibition
  • 14–16 June 2016: INTEROUTE & VILLE, the European meeting of the road community
  • 29 November–2 December 2016: POLLUTEC, the international exhibition of environmental equipment, technologies and services
  • 6–9 December 2016: MIDEST, the global show for all industrial subcontracting know-how
  • 6–9 December 2016: SMART INDUSTRIE, the industry of the future show
  • 17–19 October 2017: WORLD EFFICIENCY, global exhibition dedicated to alternative solutions
  • 6–10 November 2017: LE MONDIAL DU BATIMENT, bringing together the 3 flagship shows: Batimat, Ideobain and Interclimat+Elec
  • 4–7 April 2017: INDUSTRIE, the trade show for production technologies
  • 23–28 April 2018: INTERMAT/WORLD OF CONCRETE, international exhibition of equipment and techniques for the construction and materials industries

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