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InnoTrans: A success story ‘Made in Berlin’.

Do you still remember 1996? It was the year Dolly the sheep, the first mammal ever to be cloned, was born and the third time that Germany triumphed as soccer’s European Champions, at Wembley Stadium in London. A look in the history books would surely reveal many other popular highlights which defined that particularly year. But what does all of that have to do with the InnoTrans? At first glance not much, however a second, closer look, focusing on industry events in particular, shows that this is not the case. 1996 was the year in which the InnoTrans was launched in Berlin.

The fair reported continuously and above-average growth from the very beginning, as shown by all key performance indicators – in other words exhibitor and visitor figures; the amount of floor space used and international participation. As early as the year 2000 the InnoTrans, a bi-annual event, had become a leading international trade fair for transport technology – and has continued to build on this status. In 2014 the show celebrated an anniversary, opening its doors to the rail industry for the tenth time. More than enough reason to look back on a unique success story.

In the mid-1990’s the rail transport industry identified the need for an international trade fair at a centrally located venue in Europe. Berlin was selected and the reasons were clear to see – the re-emergent city, a meeting point for eastern and western Europe with a long-established exhibition venue and a good transport infrastructure was an obvious choice. In addition to this, Berlin also had a long history as a rail technology hub reaching into the present day. Brand new locomotives were already rolling out of factories in the region around Germany’s capital city in the 19th century.

The foundations of success had already been laid before the first InnoTrans took place – in the form of close and continuing cooperation with the industry and the associations which established the InnoTrans. As well as the German Railway Industry Association (VDB) they include the Electro-Industry Association (ZVEI); the German Transport Forum (DVF) and the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV). Together these organizations developed a trade fair concept which was based on rail transport technology and an exhibition of rolling stock in an outdoor display area. The Association of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE) later also became one of the organizations supporting the InnoTrans.

On 15 October 1996 Federal Minister of Transport Matthias Wissmann, Deutsche Bahn CEO Dr Heinz Dürr and Berlin’s Mayor Eberhard Diepgen opened the first InnoTrans. 172 companies were represented. Major industry players such as Adtranz, Linke-Hofmann-Busch, Siemens and Deutsche Bahn were among the exhibitors at the first show. Knorr-Bremse, Voith Turbo, Schaltbau AG and Deutsche Waggonbau AG were also prominently represented. The fair took place at two locations – new vehicle systems and components were shown at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds, while rolling stock was exhibited at Wilmersdorf Goods Station, some eight kilometres away.

Messe Berlin had the foresight to invest in its own rail track site and the 800-metre long rail loop, located directly in the exhibition grounds, had already been completed by the time the second InnoTrans took place in 1998. This was a milestone for the development of the InnoTrans. The number of market segments present inside the exhibition halls increased. The rail track construction, signalling and safety technology and vehicle service fields were all well-represented. Two years later trade magazine ‘Eisenbahningenieur’ was already running the headline “The InnoTrans 2000 will be the leading exhibition for rail transport technology”. And so it was – the third InnoTrans was ground-breaking.

The rail track site was extended. Two kilometres in length, the tracks now reached right up to the exhibition halls. The launch of the InnoTrans Convention heralded the arrival of a clearly structured, specialist supporting programme. Deutsche Bahn and InnoTrans organized the first East European and Asian Rail Summit, which brought together leading industry players. The three core elements of the InnoTrans, which have remained successful to this day, had been established – the trade fair, the outdoor railway track exhibition and the InnoTrans Convention. In terms of size and quality the event had achieved a standing which without doubt qualified it as the leading international trade fair of its kinds.

The InnoTrans 2002 was characterized by the introduction of the Railway Infrastructure and Public Transport exhibition segments and a new record number of exhibitors. For the first time more than 1 000 companies came to Berlin. Global players Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens were present, as were suppliers, associations and transport companies. The launch of the Virtual Market Place, a new online marketing instrument for the entire rail industry, saw the show also strike out in a new direction in the Internet field. And speaking of the Internet, the InnoTrans 2004 was the first fair to offer visitors the option of registering online.

Visitors to the InnoTrans 2004 also benefitted from a new service at the venue – guided tours to view new products provided an overview of the industry’s latest innovations. The industry was increasingly making use of the exhibition as a marketing platform for the high-profile announcement of joint ventures and new business deals or the awarding of prizes, primarily, however, to showcase new products. The InnoTrans became the rail industry’s barometer for new trends. Thus in 2004, for example, Korean manufacturer Rotem Company presented its new magnetic levitation train, the MagLev, for the first time – one of several products which debuted at the fair.

With the launch of the new Interiors and Tunnel Construction segments at the InnoTrans 2006 the trade fair now covered all relevant fields of the transport industry, providing each of them with its own dedicated exhibition area. The topic of entry-level young professionals and careers was also addressed, with the introduction of the Career Point Pavilion. For the first time, Deutsche Bahn presented the DB Awards for the Best Suppliers at the InnoTrans and continues to do so today. Bombardier celebrated the world premiere of the first diesel-electric locomotive, from its TRAXX range of products, in the outdoor display area.

From 2008 onwards the InnoTrans opening ceremony took place at the Palais am Funkturm building. The participation of Antonio Tajana, the first time an EU Transport Commissioner attended the opening, underlined the growing political importance of the event. The rail track site was extended again, now measuring 3 500 metres in length. This was the site for Alstom’s presentation of its AGV high-speed train – a major attraction for the general public. The presentation of buses saw the Public Transport segment focus on a new area. UNIFE also launched its World Rail Market Study at the InnoTrans.

In 2010 more than 2 000 exhibitors came to Berlin, a new record, and trade visitor figures passed the 100 000 mark for the first time. Once again, over 50 per cent of exhibitors were from abroad. The rail industry had begun to synchronize its innovation cycles with the dates of the exhibition, with 52 products making their world debut at the 2010 fair. The highlight was the unveiling of Siemens’ Velaro D high-speed train in the outdoor display area. A new feature was a ‘Speakers’ Corner’, where, just like at the famous role model in London’s Hyde Park, exhibitors were given one hour to present themselves to the public howsoever they chose.

Rien ne va plus. At the InnoTrans 2012 all the exhibition halls and the outdoor display area were fully booked for the first time. Over 100 rail vehicles were displayed on the venue’s own tracks. Japan was the first country to occupy an entire hall and the number of world debuts doubled to 104. The InnoTrans also achieved a new dimension in its role as an economic motor – business deals worth a total of 1.8 billion euros were announced. The framework agreement between Deutsche Bahn and vehicle manufacturer Pesa for the delivery of up to 470 trainsets was worth a total of 1.2 million euros alone.

The InnoTrans Convention was given a new format – the Public Transport & Interiors Hall Forum. The issues of career, training and the sciences were combined under one roof in the Career & Education Hall. Another new feature was the introduction of CEO tours, which provided senior executives from large companies with an opportunity to meet suppliers or potential business partners. For the first time a majlis, a traditional form of gathering in the Middle East, was organized to allow European industry representatives to meet their counterparts from the Middle East.

The tenth InnoTrans was an outstanding industry event. Record numbers of exhibitors and trade visitors; 140 world debuts; 145 vehicles on outdoor display and increased visitor satisfaction were the key features of the best InnoTrans to date. 2 758 exhibitors from 55 countries presented their innovative products and services in Berlin, with 138 872 international trade visitors from more than 100 countries visiting the fair. Following incorporation of the new CityCube Berlin exhibition building, for the first time the fair extended over 40 halls instead of the previous 38. Innovations at the InnoTrans 2014 included, among others, the Future Mobility Park, a new venue presenting trend-setting creative and visionary transportation concepts. In addition to this, the fully-booked outdoor display and track areas included a new special gauge display, which focused on broad- and narrow-gauge vehicles.

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