Editor’s comment: It’s good to be back!…

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

02 December 2022

After a four-year COVID-induced hiatus, electronica finally returned to the renowned trade show halls at Messe München in Munich, Germany last month, from 15-18 November 2022...

This editorial leader was originally featured in the December 2022 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Arguably the world’s leading trade fair for the international electronics industry, electronica has been held at Messe Munich in November every other year (alternating with its sister show, productronica, which is focused on electronics manufacturing) for almost five decades. But in 2020, along with many other industry tradeshows, it was cancelled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions and global lockdowns…

As the world has gradually adjusted to a post-COVID new normal, many of us have watched with interest to see what will happen with live industry events – including trade shows. My final pre-COVID international trip, just a few short weeks before Lockdown 1.0, was to Nuremberg for embedded world (another key electronics show) at the end of February 2020. The enormity of the coronavirus pandemic, and what was to come, was just beginning to emerge – with Mobile World Congress in Barcelona cancelling at the very last moment less than two weeks earlier. But despite a raft of exhibitor cancellations in the run-up to the event (eventually numbering more than 150, including most of the large component distributors), embedded world opted to go ahead, with significantly reduced exhibitor and visitor numbers – and a floorplan that had the guts ripped out of it in some sections.

Following the imposition of stringent lockdowns and travel restrictions throughout Europe and much of the world shortly after, as the pandemic took hold and impacted everyday life for most of us, live events became impossible and a myriad of industry trade shows were cancelled or postponed (with many also attempting to move online and offer some facsimile of the experience, to very mixed reception). And as it became clear that the timeframe of the pandemic and lockdowns was going to extend further than most had initially anticipated, the list of shows that fell by the wayside grew – including electronica’s scheduled 2020 edition.

Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT
Mark Gradwell, Editor, EPDT

But while the world had to adjust to different ways of working (supported by electronics technology), for live events, many found the digital experience lacking. Video conferencing and collaboration tools like Zoom and MS Teams certainly helped enable remote and hybrid modes of working, but many still subscribe to the view that there is no substitute for face-to-face when it comes to live events, especially exhibitions, particularly in terms of networking and building relationships.

And so, like many in the industry, I was excited to be returning to Munich for electronica – my first business travel since pre-COVID times. I didn’t make it out to the return of embedded world in Nuremberg earlier in the year – and heard some mixed reports from colleagues and peers that did make the trip. But I did attend a few shows in the UK this year (including Southern Electronics & Manufacturing in Farnborough inFebruary, Manufacturing & Engineering Week at the NEC in June and the Engineering Design Show in Coventry in October) – and they all seemed in good health and happy to be back.

And electronica didn’t disappoint: according to Messe München, visitor numbers were around 70,000, a little lower than 2018 – but given the strict COVID restrictions still in place in China and some other regions, still very healthy. Exhibitor numbers were also down, but again COVID restrictions played a part here – alongside some reticence from exhibitors in committing to the show back when it was less clear how the situation might look. International participation (with a few notable exceptions, as per COVID/travel restrictions) was also very healthy, with more than half of visitors coming from outside of Germany. Overall, it felt like the show was back at something approaching  full strength – with exhibitors and visitors alike thrilled to be back and able to meet with peers and colleagues, customers and prospects face-to-face again.

Business-wise, electronics is booming, driven by global megatrends such as IoT, 5G, electrification, e-mobility, renewables and digitalization – and only accelerated by COVID (and the trend towards remote working) and the energy crisis. As a result, connectivity, sensing and intelligence are being integrated into all kinds of smart devices, systems and infrastructure, in the home, the workplace and public spaces – all powered by electronics. And while supply chain issues over the past couple of years have been challenging, demand remains as strong as ever.

EPDT December 2022 cover image
EPDT December 2022 cover image

One issue that this inexorable expansion in electronics is fuelling is the growing spectre of e-waste – and nobody I talked to at electronica seemed to have much answer to the problem. When I raised the concern, most companies pointed to the fact that they are meeting any legal obligations concerning the recycling and disposal of e-waste – surely simply a given? As the volume of electronic devices and content continues to rise exponentially, the issue will continue to become more pressing – and collectively, through both regulation and technology, we will have to figure out a solution…

EPDT's December 2022 issue also contains features on Power technologies and Consumer applications, plus the latest edition of EPDT's IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month

Mark Gradwell


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