Innovation beckons

Exhibitions and conferences are a source of innovation, meetings and growth. But this doesn’t happen all by itself. How can venues and organisers work together to ensure that events have and maintain the highest possible impact and relevance? And what does this mean for the country and city where the events take place?

Learning about innovations in their given field is one of the main reasons why visitors come to an event or conference. The developments they discover there are what makes an event relevant and interesting. Scientific institutes, knowledge centres, government agencies and the private sector all converge to work together on the kind of future they envisage. This makes it crucial to give a prominent place to innovations and encourage encounters at each event. 

Giving innovation free rein
The RAI is a renowned venue for events, some of which we organise ourselves. Innovation plays a key role in each of them. Intertraffic, for instance, which takes place in late March, is all about traffic technology – a field typified by particularly rapid developments. At this year’s show an entire hall was devoted to smart mobility, set up in cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Transport. This is also where the Smart Cities Summit took place. During this exhibition, we organised an innovation award as well as ITSUP, a dedicated space for start-ups in smart mobility who were able to present their inspiring ideas at reduced rates. This reflects some of the ways in which we investigate the most appropriate way for each event to encourage and present innovation. 

Consultation with governments: space for top sectors
Large-scale events also have significant spin-off potential in terms of boosting economic activity and developments in the place where they occur. This effect is particularly visible for international exhibitions and scientific conferences, in which Dutch universities, research institutes and major companies are often involved. Such events help them strengthen their network and know-how, organise site visits or take care of part of the programme themselves, increasing their visibility in the process. Visitors receive an introduction to the Netherlands and Amsterdam, which can lead to business connections or even establishment plans. The Dutch government has defined a number of top sectors in which the Netherlands aims to distinguish itself globally. RAI Amsterdam has regular consultations with politicians to discuss how we can bring interesting events to the Netherlands and optimise their impact.

Working with the community
Local government, too, has priorities, to which we can contribute with our events. For instance, Amsterdam is a city where traffic technology is an important topic. The Amsterdam metropolitan area was therefore itself represented at Intertraffic. Moreover, we jointly organised a challenge inviting the experts present to come up with smart solutions to improve accessibility in the city. 

There is another way in which we are working together with local government: events attract lots of visitors and we are keen to minimise their impact on the surroundings. After all, we are part of this beautiful city and committed to help keep it a pleasant place. Our location on the outskirts of the city centre is an advantage in this regard – visitors don’t have to go through the centre to reach us. Most visitors stay in the complex during the day, and at night they generally stay in the nicer restaurants and hotels in the vicinity. They’re also well distributed over the week: professional exhibitions mostly take place during weekdays, while tourists are more likely to visit the city over the weekend. Events generally take place outside the major holiday seasons as well. Despite all this, we understand that a large number of visitors can have an impact on residents, especially in the immediate neighbourhood. This is why we maintain an active dialogue with residents and organise the flow of visitors in a way that causes minimal bother to Amsterdammers.   

Proud of our achievements, attentive to creative disruption
It is fantastic to see the amazing innovations and developments presented in these halls every day and we enjoy showing this off and sharing with the rest of the world. Intertraffic, for example, showcased the first self-driving bus in the world. At Horecava, we saw food being 3D-printed. New industries and communities bring new events with them. This includes online communities such as Comic Con and VidCon, e-sports and various IT events. An example is the new event Money2020, which is devoted to the very latest financial developments. 

As long as there are people, there will be innovation, and as long as there is innovation, there will be a need to come together and exchange ideas. As a venue and organiser, we can play an important role in this context by keeping track of developments, providing a platform for them and actively bringing people together. There are sometimes more than 100 nationalities here, all of which have come together to share knowledge, inspire each other and make business contacts. That potential, that energy is the greatest value of events… And we will continue working to foster and encourage it each and every day.
 

Maurits van der Sluis

Maurits van der Sluis

RAI Amsterdam COO | Netwerker | Events | Amsterdam | Skiën

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