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Germany: Hannover Fair to tackle energy and labor shortage

  • April 16, 2023

It started with a fish sandwich.

The Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest trade fairs, kicks off on Sunday in the German city of Hannover, nearly 75 years after the showcase for industrial technology first took place. Originally coined the “fish sandwich fair” (“Fischbrötchenmesse”) for the free meal that came with every ticket, exhibitors at the 1947 event displayed items like typewriters, dentures and folding baby carriages to visitors, many who had lived through the end of World War II just two years earlier.

Since then, things have escalated. This year, over 4,000 exhibitors from 63 countries are in Hannover to show off the latest technologies from electrical, digital and engineering industries.

The 2023 fair takes place against the backdrop of an energy and labor scarcity, and as industrial players struggle to use more digitalization while moving away from fossil fuels. Carbon neutral production, artificial intelligence, hydrogen technology and Industry 4.0 are some of the main topics at this year’s fair, whose theme is “Solutions facing the challenges of our times.”

“Only by weaving these technologies together will it be possible to secure our prosperity sustainably while pursuing climate change mitigation,” Dr. Jochen Köckler, chairman of managing board at Deutsche Messe, the fair’s organizer, said in a press release.

Models of industrial plants for green hydrogen, clean energy, energy transition.
Green hydrogen is currently still too expensive to be a viable alternative to fossil fuelsImage: imago images

Industry in the Metaverse

Industry 4.0, or the idea of creating “smart” and interconnected industrial production systems that rely heavily on automation, has only gotten more important since 2011, when the term was first launched publicly at the fair as part of the German government’s technology strategy. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies will be on display, including demonstrations of the world’s first industrial glasses for the Metaverse and an industrial robot that responds to natural human speech as it goes about its work.

More than 300 companies from 25 countries are at the fair to exhibit solutions related to green hydrogen, which many hope can be scaled to offer industrial players an alternative to Earth-warming fossil fuels. Heavy industries like steel and cement production require extreme heat and therefore need large amounts of energy. This often comes from carbon-intensive coal.

“In order for Germany to […] meet its international obligations under the Paris Agreement, hydrogen needs to be established as a decarbonization option,” the federal government has said in its national hydrogen strategy, which includes plans to import the green fuel from partners abroad. But sustainably produced (“green”) hydrogen still has a high cost and long procurement time, leading to some calling it the “champagne of the energy transition.”

Indonesia to showcase industrial ambitions

While the majority of exhibitors are from host country and industrial powerhouse Germany, China, Italy, Turkey, the United States and Indonesia are also showing up in force.

Indonesia will take on the role of partner country at this year’s fair, fulfilling an agreement originally organized for 2020, when the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today, Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and the largest economic power in the ASEAN region. Running with the motto “Making Indonesia 4.0,” the country will be using its platform to showcase its growing expertise and ambitions in the realms of digitalization and industrialization. Indonesia aims to be one of the world’s top 10 economies by 2030.

The Indonesian Ambassador, Arif Havas Oegroseno speaking at a press conference
Indonesia hopes to be a top 10 global economy by 2030, the ambassador to Germany has saidImage: KBRI Berlin

“We build all your Airbus Helicopters in Indonesia,” Indonesia’s ambassador to Germany, Arif Havas Oegroseno, said at a press conference in Hannover ahead of the fair’s opening. “Not many people know that.”

The president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will open this year’s industry trade show on Sunday. Ten years ago, former Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the 2013 fair with Russian President Vladimir Putin at her side. Today, global industrial players have struggled to adapt to supply chain disruptions and energy market upheaval caused by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which have drastically increased costs and slowed down production time for many firms.

Like last year, Russian firms have not been invited to attend this year’s fair. Chancellor Scholz used the 2022 event as a platform to condemn Russia and to promise the industrial sector support.

Edited by: Rob Mudge

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