Elmia’s forestry fairs are very important to the development of new forestry technology and methods, according to Per Frankelius, a researcher in innovations at Linköping University. “At trade fairs, inventions become innovations,” he says.
Frankelius explains that for something to be an innovation, it must involve basically new technology that also gains ground in the market. An invention can be very clever but if it doesn’t reach its intended users, it does not become an innovation. In this transformation process, physical trade fairs continue to be very important, even though they have been around for several hundred years as a method. Virtual trade fairs have been attempted but have not been able to replace the original. Instead, digital platforms have emerged around trade fairs like Elmia’s.
“Trade fairs have a number of functions,” he says. “The two most important are to present new products and services to the market and to inspire other people to have new ideas.” He adds that the media attention created by trade fairs is also important: “Inventions are not worth much if no one has heard of them.”
Activate all the senses
What is it that makes trade fairs so hard to replace? Frankelius says it is the fact that they activate all of our senses, that they present the various alternatives side by side, and that we can rarely fully grasp products and services until we see them in reality.
One important aspect of the interest in SkogsElmia and its global cousin, Elmia Wood, is that they go one step farther than traditional trade fairs with their silent rows of shiny machines. Even though design has become an important competitive tool, function is the most important thing to both forestry contractors and active forest owners. It’s one thing to read data sheets and watch well-produced films, and quite another – and far more convincing – to watch with our own eyes machines doing real work out in the forest.
Visitors give feedback
Another important function of trade fairs is to test inventions in their intended market. One of many examples from forestry fairs is an innovative woodchip boiler set inside a shipping container. Just lift it into place and dock the boiler to the heating system and it’s ready to go.
“At the fair the company found out why it wasn’t selling as well as expected. The target group thought it was too ugly to put in their yard. At the next fair, an attractive wooden building was built around the container and that turned out to be the key to increased sales,” Frankelius explains.
Trade fairs also attract the right kind of visitor. At the latest SkogsElmia in 2019, exhibitor Rickard Ellander Svensson, CEO of Skogma, summed up his impression as follows: “Basically everyone who walked by our stand was a potential customer.”
All knowledge gather in one place
It is not just a matter of sales. Just as important are all the knowledge and experience that are gathered in the same place for a limited time. They are worth gold when new ideas must be calibrated against the market in order to make inroads – in other words, to be transformed from invention into innovation. Elmia has strengthened the role of forestry fairs in this innovative process by founding the Elmia Innovation Award, which uses gold and silver medals to reward fundamentally new technology with the potential to create benefit for the target group. Innovations that become benefits become a return on investments (ROI).