Innovation keeps us agile, relevant and pivotal in the international meetings and events industry. Without innovation, without challenging accepted ways of thinking and doing, without being smart, creative, and clever… many sectors could find themselves under threat. It is therefore ICCA’s desire and belief (as a member organisation) to both protect our members long-term futures – and raise their current brand profiles – by highlighting how innovation can change and improve our whole industry. This commitment, this ability to showcase how our members innovate, will help differentiate them in an increasingly competitive and challenging commercial market. It will also raise ICCA’s value proposition in relation to our competitors. 

As we move into 2023, we should ask: how have we placed innovation at the very top of our members services strategy? Before we explore this, perhaps we should clarify what Innovation is?   

Innovation is a process by which a domain, product or a service is renewed and brought up to date by applying new processes, introducing new techniques, or establishing successful ideas to create new value. Creating new value means offering a greater value proposition. Members rightly expect an excellent ROI for their fees. Creating new value lies at the heart of ICCA’s thinking and we were keen to work with like-minded commercial partners dedicated to the same outcomes. And that is why ICCA and the German Convention Bureau set out a plan to optimise our shared thinking by meeting in the exciting, dynamic and established innovative space known as ‘The Response Room.’ 

The Response Room is a community of ‘can do’ thinkers, celebrating how quickly our industry can work when we scan the world around us for inspiration… and bring fresh ideas back into the working context of our international community. In 2022, in the run up to our 61st Congress (and our first genuinely large-scale in-person gathering since before the pandemic) we joined forces to launch The Road to Kraków: A Response Room Challenge. Combining The Response Room’s brand as a cutting-edge portal with ICCA’s global reach, heritage and established member base… certainly offered our members something both intriguing and exciting. And many were keen to get involved. 

The Road to Kraków 

The Challenge asked members to share their innovations. The brief was open and covered the latest, ongoing, or future projects on innovation for business events with fellow ICCA members. Projects covered: tools and products, programmes, co-operation, research projects, start-ups or other approaches… all addressing current challenges and/or looking for new solutions. The resulting response demonstrated how much innovation and creative, solution-based thinking connects with our members. 


The Congress Stage

We received 28 intriguing entries covering a varied range of industry-focused applications: from new technology implementation and cross-sector planning to the power of the enhanced experiential event and better more applicable data use. In a dedicated session at ICE Krakow, Matthias Schultze (MD, German Convention Bureau) asked delegates what kind of innovators they believed themselves to be:

Proactive Innovators: open to change and wanting to work in an innovation friendly climate.

Innovative Optimisers: needing rules, regulations and help to be innovative.

Operational Innovators: recognising the importance and potential of innovation and seeking collaboration to actively pursue it.

Strategic Innovators: copy innovations from other sectors, transferring it to their own business models, therefore showing a fast response to new customer behaviour/market needs.



So, our highly unscientific straw poll, testing the waters in the room, revealed an audience who recognised the importance of innovation and were keen to embrace it… an audience who could see where innovation and innovative thinking could be practically applied in their day-to-day business.

The Next Steps

After this positive experience there is a real appetite to do more in 2023. ICCA is proud to announce that in conjunction with the German Convention Bureau, a continuation of this project. We can now officially reveal that we are bringing the Response Room Challenge concept to upcoming high-profile international events, including IMEX Frankfurt (23 - 25 May) and the 62nd ICCA Congress in Bangkok (6 – 9 November). This is a strong, necessary and important collaboration… the power of innovation and the difference it can make to our industry – and society in general – is something both organisations passionately believe in.


ICCA CEO, Senthil Gopinath: This is such an exciting time for our industry. The last few years – with their numerous challenges – have shown what a positive, ‘can do’ attitude towards new ways of thinking and working can achieve. The Business Events industry needs to focus more on innovation than ever. Innovation will enable us to transform our industry. Our partnership with the GCB in ‘The Response Room’, gives ICCA members a global platform at major events, a space in the public spotlight, where the actuality of their brilliant and perceptive work can be shared for the betterment of all.’

GCB MD, Matthias Schultze: ‘Innovation is key to business events’ future success. Driving innovation and looking for new solutions beyond ‘business as usual’ requires more creativity and more willingness to take risks than the implementation of traditional projects. To successfully realise innovation projects, a different mindset is needed.  

Through partnering with the open innovation platform ‘Response Room’, an initiative launched by the GCB German Convention Bureau, ICCA demonstrates a clear commitment to innovation and, equally important, provides its ICCA members worldwide with unique opportunities to showcase their ideas.  

For the first joint project – the innovation challenge leading up to the ICCA Congress 2022 in Kraków - the Response Room functioned as an interactive, digital, and collaborative instrument for meeting designs. The platform has provided the space for collaborative exchange, driven the emergence of ideas, and ultimately translated and implemented them in a practical way. 2023 will see even more innovative approaches by ICCA and we are very much looking forward to it.’ 


We’ll be sharing more information very soon about how members can participate and share live examples of innovative and forward-thinking projects. Innovation matters and ICCA willingly now provides an international platform where we can all celebrate and acknowledge those who strive, those who dream, those who do things very differently.