Day one of the Europe Industrial Gas Conference 2015 has drawn to a close with an ensemble of encouragement about the prospects ahead in the region.
Around 140 delegates from 25 countries gathered at the Flamenco Hotel in Budapest, Hungary for the event, highlighting the significance of the region to local and international companies alike.
Those delegates heard not only about the advantageous position that the industrial gases industry inherently finds itself in, but also that there is growth to be realised in both Western and Eastern Europe.
The challenge, it was underlined, was to ‘carve out’ that growth.
Europe has also been gripped by well-documented economic and political uncertainty of late, leading to low growth and investment difficulties. A panel of industry insiders and external analysts explored the investment climate in the region, and how the gases industry can stimulate growth in both the west and east under the theme: Two Markets, One Goal.
gasworld founder and CEO John Raquet opened the conference, explaining, “Most of you will have noticed over the last three or four years, the European market has been relatively sluggish.”
“There are two markets and we separate these into the traditional East and West markets, and they are two distinct markets. What we wanted to do was have the opportunity to hear from people, hear their insights, and hear how your companies are going to grow the market.”
“So we have some industry speakers, and we also have guest speakers from outside of the industry. It’s important that we’re not just inward-thinking, it’s important that we have views and analysis from outside of the industry and what perspective they have of our industry.”
These were sentiments echoed by Air Liquide Hungary’s Zoltán Éliás, also Deputy Chairman of the Hungarian Industrial Gas Association (MIGSZ), who officially opened the event and said, “It’s clear that this conference has the chance to deal with the real business in this region. I officially open the Europe Industrial Gas Conference 2015: enjoy yourselves, enjoy Hungary, and thank you for attending.”
Keynote speaker Kent Masters (Amec Foster Wheeler) took to the stage for the event’s first presentation and, giving an independent perspective of the industrial gases business, explained the advantageous position of the industry both within the wider chemicals sector and as an industry itself.
“The first point I want to make is the diversity of the market sectors served; industrial gases are used across almost all applications out there, across a number of different dynamics and business cycles. It provides stability and growth and it gives you some diversity across the industry that you sell into,” he said.
“Secondly, in most cases, the cost of the product is not that important – so your cost negotiations are not inherently difficult. These are all advantages that the industry has. When you don’t have those things [as some other industries don’t], that changes the industry structure.”
Peter Mackey, Chemical Analyst at Exane BNP Paribas Chemicals, affirmed the strength of the industry and its robust nature as he tackled the ‘safe haven’ of industrial gases for investors.
It was then the turn of gasworld Business Intelligence’s James Barr and John Raquet to host a dual presentation about the industrial gas prospects from both a Western and Eastern Europe perspective. Despite the vast differences in the respective sides of the market, Barr and Raquet both gave firm encouragement about the growth potential in each, concluding that the gases industry ‘needs to work and be innovative at carving out growth in the years ahead’.
Following a fine dining and networking lunch provided by Herose GmbH, delegates reassembled in the afternoon for Session Two, exploring the Leading Drivers for Growth.
Air Liquide’s Mark Lostak, Deputy VP of Group R&D, discussed The Power of Innovating in 3-D and called for a fresh approach to the industry’s business models and core concepts.
Explaining the ‘thrust’ of the digital revolution Lostak challenged whether this could be a threat – or opportunity – for the gases industry. He questioned, could Amazon begin to sell and distribute CO2 cylinders, for example?
“We’ve got to dare to be different, dare to take things from a new perspective, we’ve got to look at the user experience, and we need to take a fresh look at things,” he added. “The biggest challenge we have to overcome, is introducing change… You need to convince people that they need to take risks, they need to remain open.”
Yara’s Matthieu Amar and Shell’s Jennifer Lovell concluded the day, respectively, putting the spotlight on carbon dioxide (CO2) and a consumer’s perspective of the industrial gases business.
As delegates turned their attentions to the evening and left the conference auditorium in high spirits, it was clear that an exhibition hall of over 20 booths, a panel keynote speakers, and a diverse and compelling agenda throughout ensured day one of the conference was not to be missed.
Day two resumes tomorrow morning, tackling New Markets and Opportunities and Further Practical Innovation.
Follow the conference
Keep abreast of all the latest news, views and developments at the Europe Industrial Gas Conference 2015 via the gasworld website, updated throughout the two-day event.