11.–12.06.2025 #polismobility

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All signs point to the future

Mobility as a global social task

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In conversation with Oliver Frese, Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse, and Prof. Johannes Busmann, Managing Director of the publishing house Müller + Busmann about the challenges facing the global society.

Prof. Johannes Busmann and Oliver Frese (from left) © Berenika Oblonczyk

Prof. Johannes Busmann and Oliver Frese (from left) © Berenika Oblonczyk

In conversation with Oliver Frese, Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse, and Prof. Johannes Busmann, Managing Director of the publishing house Müller + Busmann, about the challenges facing the global society.

Mr. Frese, you recently started with the Kind und Jugend trade fair, followed by the International Dental Show and finally Anuga; Koelnmesse is therefore in the middle of a relaunch after the long break caused by Corona. Prof. Busmann, you successfully implemented the polis Convention in September. So here's a question for both of you: How do you assess the future of live formats? What experiences have you had with hybrid events?

Frese: The Corona period showed that digitalisation also offers limited possibilities. Limited means: it is very efficient to meet in the digital space. It is very structured and conversation goals are reached with few detours; but what is definitely missing is personal contact or even chance encounters, as we experience again and again at our trade fairs. That we humans are social beings who actively seek personal encounters has been impressively demonstrated by the events that have now started again. I experienced such really strong emotions at Anuga. There was a great feeling of happiness in the air that we can finally do business with each other face to face again. That's why we firmly believe in the future of physical meeting places, of live events. Nevertheless, it is clear that trade fairs will also change. We are currently moving away from pure exhibitions and towards interactive platforms, where the event character and the transfer of know-how are increasingly coming to the fore. Congress, inspiration, networking - all this is becoming more and more important. It is therefore important to create spaces where peers meet. In addition, the exhibition hall will also become even more digital, which has accelerated the Corona crisis.

Busmann: I believe that personal encounters create trust and form the basis for commitment and reliability when people get to know each other. Digital communication, on the other hand, facilitates the transfer of information and targeted support in work processes. In the future, trade fairs will therefore be much more focused on being places for building trust and providing a setting for this that is inspiring, stimulating and atmospherically attractive.

Let's talk about your joint, new trade fair, polisMOBILITY. Why are you dealing with the topic of mobility, and how did your cooperation come about?

Frese: The competence field of mobility has accompanied us for many years. With TIRE COLOGNE we have a product fair on the subject of tyres in our programme, INTERMOT is the largest German two-wheeler trade fair. In the course of this, we have seen that the mobility segment has great market dynamics and moves society - in the truest sense of the word. The mobility of the future will be decided in the cities of the future, which must have a diverse range of mobility options in order to be liveable and withstand the consequences of climate change. This is the context that gave rise to the need to create an event that addresses precisely these issues and brings them together.

Busmann: The greatest challenges currently facing global society are related to climate change. The potentials of digitalisation, the energy industry and mobility as globally relevant key technologies offer us the chance to make the living conditions of future generations worth living. This is both a task and an obligation. The development of mobility, i.e. the question of how I move from A to B in space in the future, will be a decisive driving force here. From another perspective, we are discussing how we want to and can live together in the future. Worldwide urbanisation is increasing and changing the living conditions in our cities, in the urban hinterland, in urban regions and agglomeration areas. In this respect, it is obvious to think together the current technological impulses and the fundamentals for the development of our living spaces. Tomorrow's mobility will be decided in the city, and the technical possibilities of future mobility determine the quality of a city worth living in. Therefore, we can only solve the central questions of a new mobility by looking at the polis.

What is the fundamental challenge that we have to meet?

Busmann: The idea of a functionally separated city has had a major influence on urban development since the 1920s. Spatially separating living, working, providing and dividing the city has become a determining factor in our everyday lives. The triumph of the car and thus of individual mobility defined the reconstruction of cities after the war. The car-friendly city is the image that shaped the space and with which we grew up. Against the background of sustainability, climate neutrality and resource conservation, the premises have fundamentally changed. How can we avoid unnecessary mobility? How do we create liveable urban spaces? What forms of mobility support us? How can we achieve social coexistence? How can we ensure that everyone has a share in urban space? For this reason, urban development has long been about mixing functions, sensible densification and a mobile infrastructure that is multiform, i.e. multimodal.

Above all, however, two sectors that are rapidly changing mobility must be taken into account: Digitalisation and energy. What kind of infrastructure is needed in the city to enable electromobility on a broad scale? Who will provide it and who is responsible for it? And who will pay for the mobility revolution? These are crucial questions that have led us together to create a format in Germany that takes into account the complexity and interdisciplinarity of future mobility: here in Cologne, in the Rhineland, in North Rhine-Westphalia, in the largest agglomeration in Europe. With polisMOBILITY, we want to provide a format that calls all stakeholders together to jointly search for solutions for the future of mobility in the cities of tomorrow.

In other words, with polisMOBILITY you want to create a kind of blueprint that can be taken from Cologne to the whole world? How can this succeed? How do Koelnmesse and Müller + Busmann complement each other as partners?

Frese: One of our competencies or qualities is our international approach. We have a strong international network: this means, for example, that we have the opportunity to address the markets in over 100 countries around the world and to win partners for the event there on the one hand and visitors on the other. In addition, we have a strong communication power, through which we can precisely serve the target groups in a positive sense, in order to bring polisMOBILITY to the market.
In addition, we are excellently networked politically, also globally, and will accordingly bring this event into the relevant committees, for example together with Cologne's Lord Mayor Henriette Reker. Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and has internationally exciting partner cities with which a thematic exchange is possible that creates cross-border attention for our joint project. Incidentally, our study, which we prepared together with DLR, has already shown that these topics are tackled by different cities with very different approaches - and the need to exchange ideas is immense. With this new format, we want to enter into precisely this exchange and address the topics across sectors, make them visible and discuss their content. This also requires strong expertise in the field of urban development. And this is where Prof. Johannes Busmann comes in.

Busmann: In fact, it is a division of labour that could not have been imagined in a more idealised and optimised way. With our polis magazine, we have been dealing with the topic of urban development for 30 years. In terms of journalism, publishing and our leading industry event, the polis Convention, we have a very broad public and private entrepreneurial community whose discussions culminate again and again in the question: What will become of the city of tomorrow and how should it develop? Our part in this cooperation is therefore the differentiation and processing of the content-related questions of the topic of mobility, both for the conference area and the editorial support. Here we contribute our publishing activities with publication products, among other things. At these points, the partnership between the two directions meshes excellently. And it aims to establish polisMOBILITY as an inspiring meeting place for the actors of a new mobility for the city of tomorrow.

That sounds like more than just a mobility fair, because at this point one could of course rightly ask: Why another one? After all, there are various mobility events all over Germany and Europe. But you want to go beyond the purely presentational and performative character and develop the content of the topic in a holistic way. You just mentioned the keyword sector coupling. Who is your target group, which actors do you want to address and what is special about polisMOBILITY?

Busmann: The term sector coupling covers central industrial sectors: Digitalisation, the energy industry, the mobility industry sector. We didn't call these sectors sectors for nothing in the past, i.e. we looked at them as individual parts. However, we are increasingly noticing that this sectorality is no longer an asset, because the impetus for new technologies only arises across sectors. What we are focusing on with polisMOBILITY is the encounter of mobility with the energy industry and its players, with the players in the field of municipal infrastructure - such as municipal utilities - or the encounter with young companies that deal with the topic of mobility from the perspective of digitalisation - with apps, for example - and bring a completely different approach to the future offers of mobility here. This cross-sectoral encounter affects all target groups. It is, as it were, a genetic code of polisMOBILITY.
In addition, the private sector and the public sector, with their different areas of responsibility in politics, administration and subsidiaries, will increasingly recognise their mutual dependencies and opportunities. This B2G relationship - i.e. business to governance, private to public - is deposited as the second DNA code of polisMOBILITY. The B2G2C target group relationship manifests itself through the involvement in a public dialogue, in an open exchange with the urban society, i.e. the "citizens".

Frese: polisMOBILITY will map this complex structure independently of transport modes, with a 360-degree view and a broad target group approach. One perspective is how we will move - whether by car, on four or two wheels, by rail, in the air with a cable car or boats on the water. The other is precisely the question of the infrastructure, including the digital infrastructure to control different forms of mobility, and of course the question of the use of data as well as networking. Consequently, this means that polisMOBILITY will not be a pure product show, but that our exhibitors and partners will focus on concrete approaches to solutions and present them to the international audience.

And what has been the response so far from these different actors and target groups?

Personal encounters at physical events will continue to be relevant in the future. © Andreas Kreklau

Personal encounters at physical events will continue to be relevant in the future. © Andreas Kreklau

Busmann: We have received a very reliable and very pleasing response from all target group areas, which signals to us that such an initiative is considered to be of central importance and that people will participate. In addition, the City of Cologne is very supportive of polisMOBILITY as a municipal host. We are also delighted that from the public sector the German Association of Cities is accompanying us in a patronage role. We are also receiving important support from the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU), which will be involved, and we also hope that the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), with whom we are in talks, will do the same. On the industry side, the industry cluster automotiveland.nrw and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI), as important supplier partners of the industry, have already agreed on partnerships with polisMOBILITY.

Frese: Through the City of Cologne, it is our concern to bring solutions for a mobility of tomorrow into the urban space, in order to make different forms of mobility tangible for the visitors, and also to make the already existing lighthouse projects visible at the event in May next year.

The event will take place for the first time next year, from 18 to 21 May 2022 to be precise. What prospects would you like to see for the polisMOBILITY format?

Frese: I would like polisMOBILITY to present and discuss how the mobility of the future can actually be designed in cities and, above all, implemented globally.
I would like to see solutions being presented that make it possible to see today what it could be like tomorrow and that impulses are sent out from Cologne. It would be great if one day ideas that have been discussed here, that were perhaps even born here, actually lead to solutions in cities and regions around the world.

Busmann: I would be very happy if with polisMOBILITY we bring people together who are surprised at the many different perspectives from which mobility is thought about, researched and developed. We would like to mould this encounter into a new format that will increasingly become an exemplary global model. For we live in North Rhine-Westphalia with Cologne as its metropolis, with a concentrated industrial landscape and a strong energy sector in the largest agglomeration area in Europe with 18 million people and in the immediate vicinity of the Dutch Randstad metropolitan region.

There is basically no more referential space than this to think about mobility issues of the future and to develop technological solutions for them. Here we can learn to take people with us and create a new foundation for the dialogue between civil society and industry mentioned at the beginning. Through this reference space, we can create a density of global relevance.

Let's conclude with a very personal look into the future. How do you imagine the liveable city of tomorrow?

Busmann: I want to feel comfortable in my city, feel at home and feel at home. I can do all that where I can move safely, efficiently and easily in public space. A future mobility is one where I no longer think about what it costs, how much time I need, what environmental damage it causes, but is simply available.

Frese: I imagine a liveable city in which there is no "against each other" of the different forms of mobility, but a "with each other". Traffic that flows - in the truest sense of the word. Traffic does not stand for hours at traffic lights and produce emissions. It is a traffic flow in which people do not scold each other. In my imagination, mobility in the city of the future will be cross-sectoral, emission-free and noise-free. Working, shopping and living will merge.

Thank you for your personal visions and the outlook for polisMOBILITY.