Heidelberg cancels drupa 2021 participation

Heidelberg Innovation Week from 19 to 23 October 2020

Heidelberg Print Media Center Packaging at the Wiesloch-Walldorf site. Photo Heidelberg
Heidelberg Print Media Center Packaging at the Wiesloch-Walldorf site. Photo Heidelberg

Heidelberg has sent a press release this morning (8 July 2020), which says that its participation in next year’s drupa exhibition is “canceled due to the unforeseeable effects of Covid-19.” The company plans to focus on new virtual trade fair concepts and regional events. The company is planning an ‘Innovation Week’ from 19 to 23 October 2020, to be live-streamed from its Wieslock-Walldorf demonstration center next to its main factory near Heidelberg, Germany.

As far as we know, Heidelberg is the third company to opt-out of the postponed drupa 2021 event scheduled to take place from 20 to 30 April 2021. Bobst and Xerox have already announced that they will not be taking part, and we know of some other companies that are in a wait and watch mode.

Heidelberg’s press release says that he trend towards ever shorter innovation cycles in the print media industry has accelerated very quickly. Customers thus need to be informed about the latest trends quickly, flexibly and on an ongoing basis. 

The Innovation Week will be an event that combines live streaming and face to face from 19 to 23 October 2020 with a catchline – ‘Unfold your potential.’ Heidelberg plans to present packaging and commercial, including autonomous printing, and its end-to-end solutions, Smart Print Shop and Push-to-Stop that were to be shown at this year’s drupa. 

“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. This means we will be able to consistently align ourselves with our customers’ expectations,” says Rainer Hundsdörfer, CEO of Heidelberg. “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 will continue to be the focus at the Heidelberg’s Print Media Centers in Wiesloch-Walldorf, Atlanta, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Tokyo. At the centers, Heidelberg offers all of its customers and other interested parties market-specific access to product and solution demonstrations, discussion with application specialists, and extensive training courses.


The company observes that 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 longtime 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.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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  1. So Naresh, l see this news just hit the wires.
    Do you think this is the start of a fundamental
    shift away from big events like drupa and interpack,
    or more of a reflection of their financial woes?
    I remember you talked at some length about the latter.
    Do you think it will start a domino effect, like it did for Ipex?

    My answer this morning. The European exhibition business was subsidized by the ‘colonies’ in the sense that Messe’s Koln, Frankfurt, and Dusseldorf amongst others maintain offices in India for whom the business is organizing exhibitions here and to send people to Frankfurt or Dusseldorf. The office itself gets a commission on how many visitors it sends from its country, which is another reason to talk big numbers.

    The print exhibition business model is likely to break in Europe as it has largely, in the UK and the US. Note Heidelberg has said it will support local exhibitions and events which will solve the immediate travel and hotel costs and safety problems.

    Exhibitors were already doing open houses and W&H had for instance 3,000 closely monitored prospects logging in to their virtual event on 24 and 25 June. Entire boardrooms with 25 people were connected by the cloud.

    So it looks like the digital virtual is here to increase together with ‘hybrid’ shows like the Frankfurt Book Fair that is both virtual in advance and limited access for 20,000 visitors daily.

    A regular Indian exhibitor to drupa, Kohli Industries did his virtual expo for 2 and a half hours — interactively answering questions and demonstrating his new gravure press in his factory.

    Smaller country and regional exhibitions may remain. For instance, even China will suffer so India and Japan exhibitions which are already solid in a regional way, may gain.


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