In person trade shows are still one of the best and primary ways for start-up and SMEs to receive feedback, market and sell their products. I sat down to discuss b2b exhibitions and their role in launching new companies and technology during January’s CES 2022 in Las Vegas. (CES is owned by owner the Consumer Technology Association, an UFI member.)

Mr. Viorel Peca, Head of Unit, Transition and Business Acceleration Services, European Innovation Council (EIC) described the pavilion companies’ products as, “Science fiction becoming reality.” Offerings ranged from digital technologies (artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, IoT) to inventive concepts for product design and manufacturing.

The EIC provides business acceleration services to companies, start-ups, and scale-ups including coaching, grants, blended finance, knowledge shares, one-to-one matching programs, and participation in EIC pavilions in 15 different exhibitions around the world. EIC also sponsored a pavilion at the recently held Arab Health in Dubai. Additionally, EIC works with the European Exhibition Industry Alliance (EEIA), a cooperative venture between European UFI members and European Major Exhibition Centres Association (EMECA).

Viorel said, “That we all came here is a testimony for the importance of [in-person] exhibitions for businesses to survive. Yes, there were personal risks as well, but the companies in our pavilion need to sell to do business, to access new markets, and develop their products.”

Over 2300 companies exhibited at the expo, though some larger exhibitors pulled out in the two weeks prior to the due to the Omicron surge. Viorel commented, “It was the right thing to do – having the show. The decision to be here was about the small businesses we work with. SMEs are the backbone of CES.”

One of the 18 pavilion companies summed up their participation this way, ”We are really honored to have been selected and join the European Pavilion. We encourage any startup to take advantage of this programme. It allowed us to have an excellent show and over 100 meetings with different clients”. Ann Whyte, CEO, Photonic Sensors & Algorithms SL.

In addition to the EIC Pavilion, CES 2022 had large pavilions from France, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Israel. In-person exhibitions still mean business.