„There is plenty to be curious about in the Chinese process industries“

Interview with Dr. Thomas Scheuring, CEO DECHEMA Ausstellungs-GmbH

AchemAsia 2019 is drawing close. What is new in this eleventh edition of the International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production?

This AchemAsia has more new aspects than any of the previous ones. The most obvious one is the move of venue: We have decided to go to Shanghai, as Beijing no longer is the center of gravity for our industries. And we have also narrowed down the topical scope to match the new headline “International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production”. It is illustrated by five key focal topics: Process Technology, Pharma Technology, Water Management, Plant & Process Safety and Digitalization. These focal topics are related to current priorities in the Chinese five year plan. We are convinced that this AchemAsia will give a fresh impact to the event in general.

What will stay the same?

Our proven network provides continuity – it is based on in some cases decade long cooperation and trust. We have expanded it by adding some new partners, including a new sales representative for China. This network is our foundation that we are very proud of, and of course we don’t change that.

Have you had any reactions to the change of venue yet?

Only positive ones – of course, we have discussed the change with our partners and key exhibitors in advance. In general, all of our clients and customers are giving us a quite positive feedback.

AchemAsia takes place the year after ACHEMA, the global show of the process industries. If I attended ACHEMA 2018, why should I still come to AchemAsia?

In short: Different companies, different topics and a different conference programme. At AchemAsia, you will see a different perspective on the process industries. The Chinese market is not the world market, even if it is one of the most important markets today. AchemAsia will focus on solutions especially for the Chinese market, and we also expect Chinese exhibitors that didn’t come to Europe. As a visitor, you can expect to get an overview of current technology particularly for the Chinese process industry sector that you won’t see in that combination anywhere else.

Exhibition and conference are closely interlinked at AchemAsia. What will the conference cover?

The conference programme consists of symposia that address subjects of practical relevance or special interest. They are individually organized and seamlessly integrated into the exhibition. Topics are: Resource efficiency & process intensification, Future production in chemical and pharmaceutical industry, Pharma meets production, Advances in industrial water management, Play it safe – new concepts for process and labour safety, State of the art fluid handling, Materials for renewable energy production and storage, Digitalization and an AchemAsia PRAXISforum on new products and services.

Why have you decided on key focal topics rather than showcasing all aspects of the process industry?

My impression is that our Chinese attendees don’t like the generalist touch we have at ACHEMA. They come with quite precise ideas what they want to see. We are responding to this by concentrating on some key issues of our industry. That implies, of course, that for the AchemAsia after, the focus topics might change because we want to address the current five year plan.

Which topics are the strongest drivers for the Chinese process industries that are reflected in this program?

Ranking those topics is difficult. The pharma sector is a strong growth driver worldwide, and this will also be visible at AchemAsia. Process Technology as a key topic is of course the very heart of AchemAsia. Water Management reflects on the scarcity of this precious resource in China and solutions how to lessen the stress on natural resources. Digitalization is about to revolutionize our industry, and this will also show at AchemAsia. And safety for the plant and for the people is an essential key issue that speaks for itself.

What visitors do you expect?

Chinese visitors will be the strongest group, but with the clear focus on easy accessibility of the venue we expect also a strong attendance from outside China. The venue is located in close vicinity of the Hongchao Airport, and two hours flight time from there does not only cover China, but the whole of South-East Asia. 

One of AchemAsia’s slogans in the past was “Gateway to the Chinese process industries”. How would you describe it today?

Well, the slogan still fits. Admittedly, there are many events today that offer this gateway, the event landscape has grown tremendously. We have been in China for thirty years by now and have one of the very first to understand the importance of the Chinese market. Today, everybody acknowledges that China is the number one region for the chemical industry. So, besides being a gateway into China, AchemAsia is also a forum where Chinese companies present innovations that provide a model for their Western competitors.

Where are the Chinese companies especially strong?

I visited China on a business trip in fall 2018 and I was really impressed by some of the pharma tech companies we visited. Also the efficiency in chemical engineering has increased tremendously. From a Western viewpoint, there are plenty of developments to be curious about.

In the current global environment of trade conflicts, what role can AchemAsia play?

I am a strong believer in free trade. If you look back in human history over the centuries, human wealth has always been based on free trade. In the long run, trade wars have always resulted in losses for everybody. Our ambition is to offer a neutral platform that is accessible to everybody, and I do expect an intensification of European-Chinese and especially German-Chinese business relations that everybody can profit from.

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