SPE aims at youth and international audience

Hamish Champ

Published: April 2, 2012 6:00 am ET

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Topics NPE 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 2, 8:35 p.m. ET) — The Society of Plastics Engineers has revealed details of its first Antec conferences to be held in India.

The two-day event is taking place at the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel in Mumbai on Dec. 6-7, and will include forums on new technology, as well as sessions covering advances in materials, processing and machinery.

SPE also plans to host another Antec event in Lyon, France, in July 2013.

Details of the Indian and European shows emerged as SPE CEO Wim de Vos spoke of his plans to invigorate the trade body after 10 years of being in the doldrums, firstly by getting more young engineers to join and remain with the organization once they have completed their studies, as well as his ambitions to make the SPE more globally relevant than before.

“These are our priorities at the moment; facing up to the challenge of recruiting more young people into the SPE and then once they have joined persuading them to stay, and attracting members in emerging markets like India, the Middle East, China and Brazil,” he said.

De Vos said that after what he called “a tough decade” for the SPE, when the trade body saw its membership halve to fewer than 15,000, it had returned to profitability in 2011 and membership numbers had rebounded up past the 15,000-mark.

“Our finances and membership numbers have stabilized and are now growing,” he said.

Strategically, de Vos said SPE was responding to the challenge – and competition – posed by the internet and the ready availability of technical data and information by getting the organization more involved with cyberspace.

With this in mind, SPE has created an app which the group hopes will appeal to younger members who prefer to conduct their networking via the likes of Twitter and Facebook, as opposed to attending conferences. SPE also is expanding its e-networking capabilities to include technical webinars, which it believes would appeal to internet-savvy youngsters.

“We have also recognized that there is a growing demand for post-graduate education in many developing markets such as Chain and India where conferences can still play a vital part in spreading expertise and know-how,” de Vos said.

The push into emerging markets would inevitably see the SPE seek to recruit staffers who had several languages to cope with the new breed of membership, de Vos said.

And since many student SPE members dropped out of the trade body after completing their studies – largely because of the jump in fees from $31 to $129 – de Vos said the SPE planned to introduce an intermediate membership grade shortly which would offer the under-30s membership at a reduced price.

Key to SPE’s role in the world was closer contacts with national trade associations, particularly in countries like China, said de Vos. He believed his globetrotting role – he is based in his home country of Belgium while the SPE’s headquarters are in Newtown, Conn. – poses no problems for the organization.

“I managed a business [thermoformer Vitalo Group] with seven factories outside of Europe so I’m used to getting around.

“I see it as being very important to be present at conferences and shows all over the world, and when I’m not physically in the office I’m always in contact via things like Skype. Plus getting to important territories like the Middle East is easier from Europe than from the US,” he added.


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SPE aims at youth and international audience

Hamish Champ

Published: April 2, 2012 6:00 am ET

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