The drivers of a sustainable industry at Hannover Messe 2024

“Energizing a sustainable industry.” That is the overarching theme of the 2024 edition of Hannover Messe (April 22- 26). But what does it mean, and why did the organizers choose this theme?

At first glance, “Energizing a sustainable industry” seems quite far removed from many previous editions of Hannover Messe, where Industry 4.0 (first presented at the fair in 2011), automation, digital transformation, and the role of “third platform” technologies for industrial transformation took center stage.

Sustainable industry, high-performance industry

From an integrated industry to an integrated and sustainable industry

Integration was a keyword in this regard at Hannover Messe for many years. In 2013, the theme was “Integrated industry,” whereby the vision of the fourth industrial revolution was at the forefront. In 2014, we looked at the next steps of that integrated industry, specifically the steps toward an intelligent, self-organizing factory, whereby standardization was an essential topic.

In the subsequent years, the central theme continued to be “integrated industry,” with a logical shift of emphasis regarding the specific focus theme within that integrated vision. In 2015, for example, it was “Integrated Industry – Join the Network,” with the need for an excellent network of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and IT. In the same year, Hannover Messe also aimed to demonstrate that the energy transition was already technically possible.

So, now energy, sustainability and a sustainable industry are at the forefront of the Hannover Messe edition 2024.

Hannover Messe is not making a break with the past. A topic such as Industrie 4.0 / Manufacturing-X is also still prominent among the highlighted industry trends (see below).

And, of course, there is also a focus on all those inevitable technologies and solutions which also are needed in a context of a sustainable industry. Not surprisingly, after a year in which ChatGPT and GenAI, in particular, were omnipresent in the media and seemed to become part of our lives out of nowhere, AI and machine learning are another top industry trend, with AI and ML obviously being much more than just GenAI. 

But if we look at the other 5 top industry trends – according to the organizers and their partners – on top of Industrie 4.0 and AI/ML, we see “Carbon-neutral production,” “Energy for industry,” and “Hydrogen & Fuel Cells.”

These themes and trends, of course, are not chosen randomly. The world has changed since, say, 2016, when Hannover Messe revolved around solutions for an integrated industry, and 2017 was mostly about creating value in the integrated industry.

Innovative technologies pave the way to a climate-neutral, high-performance and sustainable industry. However, companies need advice and guidance on how to make sensible use of automation, artificial intelligence, renewable energies and hydrogen. Furthermore, bureaucracy and a shortage of skilled workers are limiting growth potential. (Dr. Jochen Köckler)

With the well-known impactful events we saw in recent years and a rapidly changing economic and political reality, we can see that electrification, climate change, decarbonization, the circular economy, a greener future, sustainability, ESG regulatory compliance, and green hydrogen, to mention some, become more critical. They have been on the agenda for several editions of the event, but with “Energizing a sustainable industry,” they have become even more prominent.

On top of the geopolitical challenges, climate change and energy costs there are also demographic changes and attitudes. All in all, a lot of uncertainty and quite some challenges.

In a webinar hosted by the folks at Hannover Messe 2024, we learn more about the “why.”

Moderator Brock McCormack began with some figures about the 2023 edition. That year, there were over 4,000 exhibiting companies, of which more than 300 were industrial start-ups, adding up to more than 8,000 products and innovations for the +130,000 visitors from 156 countries to discover.

The people at Hannover Messe also looked at the topics that interested visitors the most. The list shows that in terms of “areas of interest” of the visitors, none of the top 5 revolved around energy- and sustainability-oriented themes. Also interesting to note is that the list ends with “IT security” (in 20th place).

The top five areas of interest of visitors in 2023 consisted of 1) Industry 4.0, 2) automation & sensor technology, 3) AI & machine learning, 4) robotics, and 5) research & development, respectively.

After process automation (at 6) and digital platforms (at 7), the first energy-focused theme appears at the eighth spot: hydrogen & fuel cells. E-mobility & charging infrastructure is at 9, energy management at 11, digital energy & energy efficiency at 13, and carbon-neutral production at 16. At first glance, visitors do not show much interest in energy-related topics, or are energy and sustainability inherently (becoming) linked to domains such as Industry 4.0 (some prefer Industry 5.0) in the minds of visitors?

It’s a mix of many factors: what people want and think, what experts believe, what partners see, and what’s coming our way (also with more stringent regulatory requirements).

Moreover, some topics are closely connected to industrial transformation goals, whereby connected, sustainable, and efficient industries overlap. It’s evident that in an industry with ever more integration and digitization, there’s an impact on resources and energy, while electrification is essential. It’s equally clear that electricity is critical to achieving the objectives of initiatives such as the Green Deal. Energy management and efficiency mean saving costs on a more basic but essential business level. And finally, we can mention realizing new business models, especially when adding Energy 4.0.

According to Dr. Jochen Köckler, Chairman of the Managing Board, Deutsche Messe AG, organizations need advice and guidance on making sensible use of automation, artificial intelligence, renewable energies, and hydrogen.

For Köckler, the way to a climate-neutral, high-performance industry requires the interaction of technologies, cross-industry collaboration, embracing new technology, and a clear political framework with an additional role of inspiring the younger generation to strive for high-tech industrial jobs.

That climate-neutral, high-performance industry with goals such as increasing competitiveness, driving prosperity, optimizing efficiency, protecting the climate, and realizing ESG principles is what a sustainable industry aims to be.

Sustainable industry and the green industrial transition for an All Electric Society

When Brock McCormack announced the overarching theme “Energizing a sustainable industry” for Hannover Messe 2024 in the mentioned webinar, he pointed out that this theme is indeed not only about the role industry plays in achieving climate-neutral production and energy systems but also about the role of politics in making decisions in these goals and about the role of the younger generations.

Thus, with the increasing importance of regulations in this regard and the fact that the industry is facing a shortage of skilled workers as mentioned, the themes are – naturally – also pragmatic. Moreover, the themes are obviously not just invented; the major sponsors and partners also have their say. And, as mentioned, according to those partners and other members of the Hannover Messe ecosystem, the top 5 industry trends turn out to be those mentioned above: 1) Manufacturing X & Industry 4.0, 2) Energy for Industry, 3) AI & Machine Learning, 4) Carbon-Neutral Production and 5) Hydrogen & Fuel Cells – with a particular focus on green hydrogen.

The drivers at the event, also enabling a sustainable industry, can be summarized in three terms: digitalization, automation, and sustainability. Yet, what’s needed per the organizers and exhibitors of Hannover Messe continues to evolve with automation now, for example, including GenAI, and sustainability being more than ever about electrification and a focus on green hydrogen. And the message: digitalize, decentralize, and decarbonize.

Finally, note that there will also be an arena for the so-called All Electric Society (AES) concept for the first time and that Hannover Messe 2024 partner country Norway will focus on “pioneering the green industrial transition.” But that’s for later. The message, however, is clear.

Find out the details related to the identified top 5 industry trends and all other topics at Hannover Messe 2024.

Top image purchased under license from Adobe Stock, image Dr. Jochan Köckler press section Hannover Messe 2024, all images serve illustration purposes only and belong to the mentioned sources.