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InnoTrans Blog

InnoTrans supports digital exchange

May 2020

Interview VDB/DVF
DVF-Managing Director Dr. Heike van Hoorn and Dr. Ben Möbius, VDB-Chief Executive Officer (Source: DVF & VDB)

In the current interview DVF (Deutsches Verkehrsforum e.V.) CEO Dr. Heike van Hoorn and Dr. Ben Möbius, General Manager of Verband der Eisenbahnindustrie in Deutschland (VDB), talk about their goals for the digital convention that will take place in September 2020.


InnoTrans was postponed from September 2020 to April 2021. Dr Möbius, your association, the VDB, and the DVF are now planning a digital programme for the autumn. What significance does this kind of communication have for your industry even in times of crisis?

Dr. Möbius: Very high. VDB fully supports the painful but absolutely correct decision to postpone InnoTrans until next year. However, the postponement of the fair does not necessarily mean that the complete programme will disappear from the scene in autumn. Climate-friendly, digital and networked mobility does not lose its relevance due to the crisis, quite the contrary. Because realising the clean mobility of the future together with partners all over the world - that is the spirit of InnoTrans and that remains our mission. That is why we have an idea: why not use this year's traditional trade fair date for digital communication. In other words, to talk to customers all over the world, to gain the trust of passengers and to support politicians as a strong partner for Clean Mobility. By the way, I am convinced that the InnoTrans brand is so outstanding that it also works excellently in digital terms. We would like to use this potential in autumn for the innovations and concerns of the railway industry in Germany.

Dr. v. Hoorn, you are offering your InnoTrans Forums digitally on 23 and 24 September, the original date of InnoTrans 2020. What made you as DVF decide to do this?

Dr. v. Hoorn: The Corona crisis has hit all companies, especially trade fair organisers, suddenly and hard. But right now we can prove that we are present and offer added value for our customers and members despite the ban on contact and meetings. Digitalisation makes it possible. We therefore expressly welcomed the fact that Messe Berlin did not cancel the important leading international trade fair InnoTrans completely, but had the courage to postpone it until April next year. However, since September is the traditional month for InnoTrans for the rail industry, we would like to set an example with our forums. It's great that Messe Berlin is involved and supports this!

How exactly do the digital forums work?

Dr. v. Hoorn: In the meantime, we at DVF have gained a lot of experience with webinars and video talks as organizers. By the way, these are excellently accepted, whether by our members, stakeholders or press representatives. We all stay up to date and, above all, stay in touch. We would like to offer our two industry forums as video talks. As usual, the audience can follow an exciting discussion between the panelists. Even questions can be directed to the podium via another tool without being on site. We hope for a high number of participants here as well.


What goals are you pursuing with a digital offer and which target group do you want to address with it?

Dr. Möbius: Basically three goals:

Firstly, especially in times of crisis, it is essential to exchange information with our partners worldwide. That's why a digital forum in the fall is to serve as a forum for professional exchange. Online product presentation, specialist forums with an international audience, discussions between customers and manufacturers - all this will help to further advance our common mission of mobility for the future. I know that some trade fair experts see digital formats more as a dinghy. But we want to make it clear: Our industry remains capable of action, it remains innovative - and it looks ahead.

Secondly, we want to focus on the dialogue with politicians. Also, but not only during the crisis, the railway industry is of great strategic importance for our country and for the EU. In the second half of 2020, Germany will hold the European Council Presidency, and climate protection is right at the top of the agenda. And rightly so. After all, it is not acceptable that some people believe they have to overcome the corona economic crisis at the expense of climate protection. You cannot fight one crisis by intensifying another. Therefore: Combine economic recovery and climate protection. We want to show how this can be done in practice.

Thirdly, we can never draw attention to our world-leading trade fair here in Berlin early enough. So the digital offering is also intended to be a kind of amuse-gueule for InnoTrans in April 2021.

What thematic focus would you like to set for your digital programme?

Dr. Möbius: I think it will be about details and open discourse. How, for example, can innovations in the railway industry further improve health protection in public transport? - Why and how must ETCS be introduced very quickly now? - Ultimately, everything will contribute to our core question: How can the digital railways dovetail the re-launch of the economy with the ramp-up of climate technologies? -The railway industry provides solutions to two major crises of our time: the climate crisis, but also the corona crisis. Innovations are a good answer to both challenges. Because anyone who invests in emission-free, digital mobility now will establish a new, more sustainable economy.

In the current situation, mobility is currently in an exciting phase of transformation. What topics have you selected?

Dr. v. Hoorn: For us as DVF and thus as a mobility industry, it is enormously important that we do not slacken our efforts to drive forward the innovation and modernisation of our sector despite the profound crisis. This is essential for our society from a competitive, industrial and environmental point of view. This is why the Federal Government must not cut back on its investment projects, even though the financial burdens from the Corona crisis are so enormous. Investments in the transport sector pay off for our future. That is why our first topic is "Using the investment ramp-up in a planned and speedy manner - for a digital and expanded rail network". With regard to the International Bus Forum, we would like to take a look at the e-bus and its integration into mobility concepts. A really very exciting topic that has the potential for controversial discussions.


The idea of a digital convention met with great interest in the industry. What added value do you hope to achieve, also with regard to your forums at InnoTrans 2021?

Dr. v. Hoorn: We see the format as a preview, as a showcase for the actual trade fair, also to arouse anticipation of a personal reunion of the entire industry a few months later. After all, one thing is certain: this global crisis will pass and we will probably shape the future with a slightly different perspective, but we will shape the future. The topics of innovation, climate and environmental protection and mobility will remain with us.

Finally, let us look into the future. Which three aspects will be the ones that will shape the mobility economy as a result of the lessons learned from the current pandemic?

Dr. v. Hoorn: This is a look into the crystal ball. I personally believe that there is one thing in particular that we appreciate much more: what freedom and, inextricably linked with it, mobility mean. It is to be hoped that people feel a certain gratitude for the achievements of the transport industry. After all, without mobility offers, no food, medicines and doctors would be able to be where they are needed. The mobility industry has proven that it can be relied upon!