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31 January 2017 - Sonja Bleibenich

“50 per cent of the exhibition space has already been reserved”

How the 2018 International Astronautical Congress in Bremen is becoming a reality

Bremen, October 2018: around 4,000 industry experts from all over the world are in the city to attend the International Astronautical Congress. But it’s not just at the congress that people are talking about space. It’s also a topic of conversation in pubs, schools and even nurseries. The organising committee is working flat out to make sure this all becomes a reality. The committee is based at the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM), which is part of the University of Bremen. In the following interview, Peter von Kampen and Birgit Kinkeldey from ZARM talk about programming and planning for the world’s biggest space industry conference – the theme of which is ‘Involving everyone’ – and about good news from Mexico.

The local IAC 2018 organising committee at ZARM are pictured here (from left to right): Claus Lämmerzahl, Marc Avila, Birgit Kinkeldey and Peter von Kampen
The local organising committee at ZARM is working flat out on preparations for the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which will take place in Bremen in 2018. The team are pictured here (from left to right): Claus Lämmerzahl, Marc Avila, Birgit Kinkeldey and Peter von Kampen © ZARM, University of Bremen

What have you taken away from Mexico, where the IAC 2016 was held? And why was it important for you, as hosts of the 2018 event, to be there?

Peter von Kampen: The annual IAC, which has just taken place in Mexico and will be held in Australia in 2017, is a key event for us, because we want to promote the 2018 congress and Bremen as a hub for the space industry. And, of course, we want to show the delegates the qualities that Bremen will offer as a host city.

So how did it go?

Peter von Kampen: Mexico was a resounding success for us! 50 per cent of the exhibition space has now been reserved. The big challenge for the coming months will be getting everything else on a firm footing. For this we’ll need exhibitors, sponsors and delegates. We kicked things off in June at the ILA Berlin Air Show – and we are now right in the midst of the planning.

Martin Günthner, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports, and Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency, at the Bremen stand at the 2016 IAC in Mexico.
Martin Günthner, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports, and Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency, at the Bremen stand at the 2016 IAC in Mexico. © ZARM, University of Bremen

Space agencies, research institutes and companies in the space industry come together at the IAC to find out about the latest technologies and scientific advances. As well as the exhibition there is also a congress. What is your job here as the local organising committee?

Birgit Kinkeldey: The International Astronautical Federation in Paris is putting together the scientific conference programme, for which around 3,000 papers have been submitted. Our job as the local organising committee is to turn all of this into the perfect event. We do everything from finding suitable venues, booking hotel allocations and registering delegates to organising the space exhibition and the fantastic supporting programme, which is next on our agenda.

What do you have in mind for this?

Birgit Kinkeldey: As an aerospace hub we are in a position to put together a comprehensive programme for the delegates. Of course, Bremen is home to companies such as Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt DLROHB and Airbus, but also research institutes such as the Institute of Environmental Physics, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, ZARM itself and the Centre for Technomathematics – all of which deal with aspects of space travel. There’s a real breadth of expertise in the city and we want to demonstrate this to our delegates.

There will also be a tourism programme, of course, and we are particularly keen to get the whole of Bremen engaged with the event. We want people to be talking about space in schools, at universities, in public areas and even in pubs and cinemas, places where you wouldn’t ordinarily expect this.

Birgit Kinkeldey, Head of Corporate Communication, ZARM 

What opportunities will the IAC present for trade and industry in Bremen and for scientific research?

Peter von Kampen: Our primary concern is to show the world what Bremen has to offer when it comes to space travel. It’s why we submitted a bid to host the event. We want to bring the international aerospace industry here and to facilitate collaborative projects and the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Bremen, as a hub of the space industry, will obviously benefit greatly from this. And I’m sure that the local retail and hospitality industry will welcome the news that some 4,000 visitors from out of town will be spending more than a week in the city!

Every IAC has a theme, which in 2018 is ‘Involving everyone’. What’s the thinking behind this?

Birgit Kinkeldey: We know from many studies that groups work much more effectively when they have a mix of ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. We want the space industry to become more diverse too. 

Our motto is diversity.

Birgit Kinkeldey, Head of Corporate Communication, ZARM

How will this be reflected in the congress?

Birgit Kinkeldey: We are looking to increase the proportion of female delegates, for example. One of our targets is for 50 per cent of the main talks to be held by women. That will be a new record if my calculations are right. Young girls and young women need these role models to show them that they too can forge a career in the industry and achieve their goals.

We also want to attract younger delegates. There will be a conference for schoolchildren, for example, giving them the opportunity to submit proposals for talks. And we want to specifically attract delegates from countries that do not have a space agency of their own.

You were also part of the organising committee when Bremen first held the IAC in 2003. 2,700 people attended that event. For 2018 you are reckoning on up to 4,000 delegates: that’s a whole new ball game.

Peter von Kampen: 2003 really was a very different time. Things have moved on quite a lot since then, not only with the IAC and how it is organised but also for Bremen too as an aerospace hub. Back then we mainly just needed to organise the congress and the accompanying exhibition. Now there are up to 50 other events that go on at the same time. That’s a tenfold increase. And so we are now having to bolster our team with two new full-time members of staff.

Ms Kinkeldey, Mr von Kampen, thank you for speaking with us.

For further information on innovation in space technology contact Dr Barbara Cembella, cluster manager for the space sector, +49(0)421 9600 340, barbara.cembella@wfb-bremen.de.

Click here for information on the aerospace industry in Bremen.

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