By Molly Brennan, Contributing Editor and Katie Kervin, Assistant Editor
as broad as “future energy.” Booths featured everything from an enclosed electric motorbike that can reach speeds of 155 mph, to municipal waste-treatment solutions, large-scale desalination pumps, and portable solar panels for mobile battery charging.
Deeper still, in the U.S. pavilion, stood John Buckey, president of Toledo, Ohio-based Xunlight. The company, which produces flexible, lightweight solar panels, was a first-time exhibitor. Buckey said he was there to target clients and build relationships with potential distributors. Xunlight's booth had seen “pretty good” activity, but Buckey wasn't sure if the size of the show was a hindrance and if his company might fare better at a smaller, more focused exhibition. At the same time, he said, “it's great just to see everything that is going on in the industry.”
Suntech's Yu agreed that the networking and market research that take place at WFES are valuable. “We're here to understand what's happening in the market,” he said. “Our focus is definitely making sales, but the exchange of information is playing a bigger role this year and will help us measure our success here.”
Recognizing the importance of educational programming and knowledge sharing in a nascent industry, show organizers amped up the conference portion of WFES this year. According to Masdar, 1,045 people (up 7 percent from 2012) attended the WFES 2013 conference program, which featured 165 speakers in 16 hours of panel discussions and plenary sessions over two days. Topics ranged from the role of domestic and international policies on the future of renewable markets, to the outlook for private-sector financing.
Show organizers also created space for educational programming on the exhibit floor. The Sustainable Solutions Village in the IWS exhibit space, for example, was used to display and highlight projects that have been successfully implemented in water-scarce communities across the world. Similarly, the Technology Exchange Platform, located in the rear of the WFES exhibition area, provided a mini presentation and exhibit space for companies to promote their technologies and services. “This is more interactive and allows for more exchange between presenter and audience,” said Reed Exhibitions’ Naji El Haddad, WFES's show director. Over the course of the three-day exhibition, 33 speakers gave 25-minute presentations on topics such as best practices in Middle East solar plants and the potential for recycling and reusing biogas — under the title “Toilet: A Tool of Social Change.”
Several of the larger exhibitors, including Schneider Electric, Statoil, and ExxonMobil, offered programming within their booths. At the ExxonMobil Energy Outlook Forum, a separate area within the large ExxonMobil booth served as a mini-auditorium for 10 speakers. And the Ernst & Young-sponsored Project & Finance Village offered sessions on the renewable investment market, and also showcased 30 clean-tech and renewable-energy projects looking for outside investment. With annual investment in renewables up to an estimated $257 billion worldwide, it's not surprising the Village has grown in popularity and size since it was introduced three years ago. “We launched the Village in 2011 with 16 projects,” said Robert Seiter, Ernst & Young's cleantech leader for Europe, Middle East, and Asia. “This year, we have 30 projects with an estimated investment value of $8 billion.”
From the venture capitalists in the Project & Finance Village, to the visiting sheikhs, Western oil executives, earnest policy types, Yemeni suppliers, Chinese solar vendors, German entrepreneurs, and Emirati students — WFES was a melting pot of nations, interests, and agendas. The diversity reflected the interconnectedness of the private and public sectors in today's renewable-energy market, and highlighted the challenge that WFES organizers faced in meeting the needs of such a varied audience.
“With so many different interests attending, it just means we have to work very hard to communicate specific messages to each group,” El Haddad said. “We have direct marketing programs targeted to specific people. For academics, we talk about the intellectual parts of the program; for business leaders, we talk about investment opportunities; and for politicians, it's how to achieve their policy objectives.”
Once attendees are on site, WFES intentionally doesn't separate them into different tracks. “In order to solve the issue of renewable energy, you've got to get three stakeholder groups talking,” said Reed Exhibitions’ Peter McConnell, who is IWS's show director. “You have to get policy moving in the right direction, you have to have science and technology, and you have adoption of solutions by business. We want to foster a dialogue between those three different stakeholders, so we don't want to split them apart. Instead, we try to customize their experience within the larger context of the show.”
For example, WFES offers attendees a show app and online planner that allows them to search exhibitors by product and interest. This year, Reed also unveiled a WFES/IWS online matchmaking tool. After logging in, a visitor (attendee or exhibitor) was presented with a list of suggested exhibitors, based on the selected sector of interest. Once an exhibitor was chosen, the tool sent a meeting request to the other party and helped coordinate a prescheduled meeting.
A similar, in-person matchmaking service was also available on site to international visitors. “The international visitors have limited time,” El Haddad said, “and we want to make the best use of their time and offer an experience that will make their visit rewarding.” At a separate check-in desk next to the main registration area, a team of 10 specialists from an outside company contracted by Reed worked with international attendees to locate relevant exhibitors and request on-site meetings. “If they would have to wander around, it might take two or three hours of their time to figure out who is where,” El Haddad said. “This is more efficient, and one more way to customize the experience.”
And with Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimating that global spending on renewable energy will hit $7 trillion by 2030, that experience is only going to become more important. While it's not yet clear what the coming market will look like, the future seems bright for renewable energy — and, by extension, WFES. When the curtain fell on WFES 2013, 70 percent of exhibit space had already been booked for next year's show. Same desert, same oil nation, same green movement. Same time next year.
The Next Generation
Global Young Scientists Summit 2013, Singapore, Jan. 20-25
By Katie Kervin, Assistant Editor
'The Ups & Downs in the Life of a Scientist.' Photograph by National Research Foundation Singapore
Singapore has established itself as one of the premier meeting destinations in Southeast Asia, attracting many large conventions in a variety of industries, from Herbalife's Singapore Extravaganza in 2012 to the Aviation Security Conference and Pharma-Nutrition this year. But for the small island city-state with a population of about 5.2 million, meetings aren't just about attracting dollars and visitors — they're about creating and sustaining a knowledge economy that is second to none.
“Singapore has found success in today's interconnected world as a global hub in many sectors such as transportation, commerce, and finance,” Singapore President Tony Tan said during closing remarks at the inaugural Global Young Scientists Summit (GYSS), which Singapore hosted in January. “… Through sustained investments in R&D over the last 20 years,