The signs at Hannover main station welcome you to the trade fair town. A proud statement that is evidenced by the 131 hectares of space that I visited earlier this year for the industrial technology trade fair. President Obama decided to as well, touting the US manufacturing industry, as the key sponsor to this bi-annual event.
I toured the modern, functional halls, 26 in total, discovering block upon block of tooling, engineering and regional German state offerings, displaying products, services and new innovations. The Germans are the world champions of trade fairs, 2000 will be held in 2016, way ahead of USA with 1146, China with 592. In fact more Germans go to trade fairs than go to watch the German football league, another field they are world champions in.
So why are the Germans way ahead of the rest? Perhaps because they were the first to establish the idea. In 1165 Leipzig formed the first trading fair, where the local rulers set a precedent of only allowing local traders to trade within a mile radius of the town. And after the 2nd World War it was the British military that established Hannover as an export trade fair to support West German manufacturing that has now become the biggest trade fair site in the world.
So how does Great Britain fair in comparison? In Hannover I couldn’t find any British manufacturers, which is a reflection perhaps of an economy that now focuses on service industries however, in 2016 the UK exhibited 589 trade fairs putting it in 4th place. That puts it above England’s, Wales, Scotland’s and Northern Ireland’s world cup football ranking and is frankly a fair performance.