Well, I’m now back on UK soil having spent most of last week in Munich where I attended my first in person event for Hyperion – the Smarter E Europe Restart event (ees Europe / Intersolar) and had the opportunity to spend some time with some of our German team for the first time since I joined!

I have always loved travelling overseas, both personally and professionally, and having the chance to get away from the doom and gloom of England and explore the sights and sounds of Munich, is something I do not take for granted.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect before my trip. I’d been to many events in the UK and travelling to see clients in Germany before, but this was my first taste of CleanTech events outside of the UK. Nevertheless, there was a real sense of excitement as I set out the door ready for my travel.

I was not disappointed! Here are a few key takeaways from last week’s experience:

1.    NOTHING beats meeting in person

Given what we’ve all endured over the last 18 months or so, it has become easy to fall into the trap of virtual networking via Teams / Zoom and an over reliance on social media (LinkedIn etc).

It is only when you attend events like Smarter E that you realise how enjoyable face-to-face interaction is (even with face masks 😉!). It was great to share a joke about my “alien” Wigan accent or the famous red Adidas kicks (a Hyperion essential, especially when walking 25,000 steps per day!) to get conversations started.

It was also fantastic to finally put faces to names with some clients and contacts I’ve been in contact with over the last 6 months but also new clients who had heard of Hyperion but didn’t really know what we do.

Although it was my first Smarter E and I couldn’t draw comparisons with pre-pandemic shows, from my perspective, this event had a special buzz about it. People were smiling, enjoying overdue catch ups over coffee & cake or a Spaten Lager, and generally having a great time after so long apart.

It reminds you that fundamentally we are social creatures, and nothing will substitute the energy you get from great in person events. Long may they continue!

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2.    Getting up close with technology

Smarter E had 5 large Halls with hundreds of stands, showcasing the most innovative technology that is hitting the market. Whether it be EV batteries and charging tech, AI-driven analytics software, or even robots for maintaining solar panels, the show had it all!

I loved the ees and Power2Drive halls in particular – not just because of the Hispano Suiza Carmen EV on display (with its mere $2M starting price) but also because for a “non-techy” like me, they really helped to paint a picture of how Energy Storage and EV Mobility technologies work and how inter-connected they are – a priceless experience you wouldn’t get from sitting behind a laptop screen!

All the exhibitors were happy to give their time and explain the inner workings and how they saw their tech impacting the market. This is just one of those experiences you cannot get any other way!

Hispano Suiza Carmen – a cool $2M starting price

3.    Gaining new perspectives

The Energy Storage market is accelerating at a crazy pace, and it can be a challenge to keep up at times. I realised that I had been guilty of having pre-conceived views of certain technologies – for example, it’s very easy to be drawn into the sexy world of EVs and all that comes with it, but I’ve come away from the event with a more rounded opinion on wider battery storage tech for commercial, residential, and utility applications.

Another example is Hydrogen – there are a lot of conflicting views on its role in the future energy mix (and that’s just amongst our team at Hyperion) but I always been positive about the possibilities of H2 and I am now working with some great, innovative clients in this space.

Therefore, it was great to check out the event’s Green Hydrogen Forum, which showcased some of the key industry trends. I was able to take away some new perspectives on the current market challenges and what the future has in store. Kudos to Hydrogenious LOHC and Air Liquide for their insights in this area.

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4.    Start-up Fever

The Start-Up Stage at Smarter E was a cool place to hang out. It was great to meet so many passionate Founders and CEOs who were each at a different stage of their growth journey.

I really enjoy helping Energy Storage start-up clients attract new senior talent and to have the opportunity to discuss first-hand the key challenges they find when it comes to attracting talent, was a real pleasure. It was refreshing to hear that companies are prepared to think outside the box when it comes to hiring talent. I particularly enjoyed my discussions with Circunomics, betteries GmbH and Stabl in the start-up zone.

I look forward to playing a key part in supporting more start-ups with their future growth moving forward!

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5.    Travelling has changed

Pre-2020, taking a flight into Europe was always straight forward but I must admit this time around, it was more complicated than usual. There seemed to be countless forms to be filled in, various document checks at the airport, and strict instructions to wear a mask in the airport and on the flight – however, if it meant I could get into another country for the first time in 18 months, I was hardly complaining.

Once touched down in Munich, I chose to take the S-Bahn through to the western suburbs of Munich where my hotel was. I always try to embrace public transport, both for its environmental benefits but also because Germany’s transport infrastructure is really easy to use and much more reliable than the UK’s!

I stayed at the aptly named Hyperion Hotel (no, no – our empire has not expanded into the hotel business – not yet anyway!). It was great to see e-scooters dotted about everywhere around the station exit and the electric tram connection close by!

6. Munich is a beautiful city

Finally, the trip was not all work and no play. I had the pleasure of exploring the city and I was not disappointed – the old town was stunning with its Gothic buildings and rich history. It was a timely visit with the tail end of Oktoberfest celebrations in the city and plenty of opportunities to sample some Bavarian steins and the local delicacies in a Bräuhaus in Marianplatz (they sure like their carbs which was good for my inner Wiganer!)

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7.    Meeting colleagues makes a difference

With the event being in Munich, it presented me an opportunity to meet up with my colleague and Hyperion GmbH Managing Director, Wolfgang Kick.

It was actually the first time we had met in person, due to Covid, and we spent Day 2 of the event together. Of course, we visited some clients together and discussed some of our current projects but in truth, the best part was Wolfgang and I getting to know each other on a personal level, rather than just as colleagues. I learned more about Wolfgang’s life and I now know that he has my back whenever I need support and likewise, he can come to me for help when needed.

Again, it served as a clear reminder that the new remote working life has its perks but meeting in person is still incredibly important!

Final thoughts…

What a trip! Despite the pain of travelling, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of visiting Munich, meeting so many people in CleanTech, and spending time with Wolfi. The trip has given me the vital opportunity to build up my industry network for future collaborations and I now have the bug for more travel at similar events in the future.

For anyone thinking about getting back into exhibitions and conferences, I cannot recommend it enough. Get out there and meet new people – you will not regret it!