In a move that will seem unthinkable to long-time drupa attendees, Heidelberg has confirmed that it will not be exhibiting at the rescheduled drupa 2021 and will instead be placing a greater focus on ‘virtual trade fair concepts’ and regional events.

This will include its own Innovation Week, taking place from 19 – 23 October 2020. Under the slogan ‘unfold your potential’, the company will be presenting ‘a wealth of product innovations that focus on packaging and commercial, including autonomous printing, end-to-end options, Smart Print Shop and Push-to-Stop.’ The Innovation Week will take place via livestream as well as face-to-face at the company’s Wiesloch-Walldorf facility.

‘We will be investing more in new, virtual trade fair concepts to ensure closer and more individual customer communications as well as in regional events in our growth markets,’ said CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer. This means we will be able to consistently align ourselves with our customers’ expectations. The Innovation Week will now enable us to communicate with our customers as soon as possible and to present our innovation offensive.’

Face-to-face dialogue (though presumably suitably distanced/protected) will continue to be the focus at the company’s print media centres in Wiesloch-Walldorf, Atlanta, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Tokyo, where it will engage with customer-specific needs directly on-site. At the centres, Heidelberg offers market-specific product and technology demonstrations, direct communication with applications specialists, and training courses. The company says it already receives several thousand customers annually to its demo spaces around the world.

In a statement, Heidelberg noted, ‘Covid-19 has accelerated the move towards digital and local events. Although there is no way of knowing what the impact of corona will be next year, Heidelberg has to make a decision now.

‘So, the company has decided to not participate in international trade fairs next year and will thus not be taking part in drupa. In 2021, drupa will be a very different event – global travel restrictions and hygiene regulations mean significantly fewer visitors and constraints on communication. Traditional international trade fairs with busy booths and halls will very probably be difficult to implement and will likely lose their status as global meet-up events for customers and manufacturers.

‘As a long-time partner to drupa, Heidelberg will be happy to continue to offer its experience when it comes to bringing future trade fair concepts into line with new digital possibilities and customer requirements.’

This cancellation comes in the wake of the decisions not to attend by Xerox and Bobst, announced in late May. It remains to be seen whether, as with the 2017 Ipex, this will trigger a series of further cancellations from exhibitors who were hoping to pick up the same audience.