STUVA Conference 2019 Sets New Standards

The STUVA Conference in Frankfurt am Main from 26 to 28 November 2019 impressively demonstrated why it is regarded as the most important fair of its kind worldwide: More than 2000 registered conference participants setting a new visitor record for the STUVA Conference, more than 60 lectures in two parallel sessions, around 200 exhibitors presenting their services at the STUVA-Expo with an exhibition space of 7000 m². Altogether 3800 experts were present – an unparalleled international specialist audience.

At the Pulse of Time: This is the STUVA Conference

The intensive atmosphere of STUVA 2019 was already clearly noticeable during the opening speeches. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Ziegler, Chairman of the STUVA Board of Directors, was the first to greet the conference participants in the large lecture hall at the Frankfurt trade fair, which was filled to capacity. He emphatically pointed out the special opportunities and great demands of the upcoming ecological traffic turn for engineers in tunnel construction and in the entire transport industry. Ziegler sees the industry well equipped for the transport projects of the future. Now, however, “it is up to the politicians to create suitable and relevant framework conditions that will last beyond the next election date”. Professor Knut Ringat, who welcomed the STUVA conference participants in the name of the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main region, gave a very similar greeting. He sees the modernisation of the transport infrastructure as the most urgent challenge facing our society and pointed out the special importance of public transport and the numerous ongoing infrastructure expansion measures in the Frankfurt/Rhine-Main region. In his opinion, the much too long planning and approval times for infrastructure projects are a fundamental evil.

The next greeting came from Jens Deutschendorf, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing. He emphasised the increasing importance of tunnel construction for the transport infrastructure: “Tunnels consume less space, they do not cut up biotopes, and they also cause less noise than roads and railways in the open air. Without such buildings, it would hardly be possible to implement transport projects in highly densely populated and highly stressed areas,” said Deutschendorf with conviction.

STUVA Prize 2019 for Felix Amberg

The president of the Swiss Amberg Group Dipl.-Ing. ETH Felix Amberg was awarded the renowned STUVA Prize for his life‘s work to date. The decisive factor in the jury‘s decision to award the prize was that Felix Amberg always promotes the use of the underground space without only looking at his own business success. In the opinion of the jury, he deserves this year‘s STUVA Award in recognition of his achievements and as a small incentive for the future.

Remarkable Opening Contribution by Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

The silence was as quiet as a mouse when the former German Chancellor Dr. h.c. mult. Gerhard Schröder (Fig. 1) stepped up to the lectern to present his thoughts on “Political and Economic Perspectives in Germany and Europe”. As a well-known good speaker, it was easy for him to cast a spell over the audience and to open its eyes to the big picture. He, too, sees the need to restore the domestic infrastructure. Germany must finally acknowledge its responsibility as an economic leader and stand up for Europe together with France. A strong Europe is not only the right answer to US President Trump‘s “America First” rhetoric, but also helps in competition, for example with China, which has made impressive progress in the field of artificial intelligence. Germany must invest in what is important for the future, said Schröder.

Parallel Lectures on Tunnel Construction and Tunnel Operation

The opening speeches and the STUVA award ceremony were the perfect way to get the conference off to a good start (Fig. 2). All Tuesday and Wednesday more than 60 individual lectures on various topics followed. Experiences gained from major international projects, current developments in tunnel boring technology, tunnel lining and sealing, operational safety, fire protection, energy supply and Building Information Modeling were presented, as well as numerous lectures on further key issues of the tunnelling business. The last session of the STUVA conference, the so-called “home block”, revolved around building projects and the special features of the current conference venue.

Lecture Competition Young Forum

The late afternoon belonged to the new generation among the engineers. Young people competed against each other on the big stage of the Young Forum with lectures on topics from their still young careers. All conference participants were called upon to select the best presentation in a secret ballot. Ivan Popovic, M. Sc. from the ZPP AG narrowly won the STUVA Young Talent Award. His lecture “New separation method for used bentonite suspensions: Fine grain separation by means of electroagulation – laboratory tests, prototype, construction site implementation” received the most votes. This year‘s STUVA Young Talent Award includes a trip to the extraordinary tunnel construction sites of the Alto Maipo hydroelectric power plant mega-project in Chile. The runner-up of the Young Forum, Alena Conrads, M. Sc. of Wayss & Freytag Ingenieurbau AG, did not leave empty-handed, either. She received the InnoTrans Career Award, presented for the first time and jointly donated by STUVA and InnoTrans, Berlin, for her contribution “Maintenance planning for mining tools in shield tunnelling taking into account uncertainties in wear prognosis – process simulation, sensitivity analyses, optimisations”. STUVA warmly congratulates the winners.

STUVA-Expo on 7000 m² Exhibition Space

What began decades ago with just a few stands has developed into one of the largest trade fairs for service providers and manufacturers of tunnel construction technology. As an exhibitor at the STUVA Conference, it is particularly easy for companies specialising in tunnel construction and operation to find new customers, as STUVA has a truly expert audience with a high density of decision-makers to offer, which is difficult to find elsewhere at similar events. For the conference participants, this industry exhibition is the ideal complement to the many top-class lectures. Around 850 additional trade fair visitors were thus generated for STUVA-Expo. The approximately 200 exhibitors could not complain about empty stands or missing customer contacts (Fig. 3).

Atmospheric Festive Evening

In recent years, the traditional festive evening on the first day of the STUVA Conference has developed into one of the absolute highlights of the event (Fig. 4). With 1500 seats, the booked festival hall was considerably larger than in previous years and yet all tickets were sold out weeks before the conference. The crowd was correspondingly large at the introductory champagne reception, which was again sponsored this year by TPH-Bausysteme. As in previous years, the relaxed atmosphere at the festive evening proved to be the ideal opportunity to exchange ideas with old acquaintances and make new contacts, and the “Keller-Bar” of the sponsor Keller Grundbau offered free beer until late in the night.

Hand Picked Excursions on the Final Day

On the third day, the conference participants were able to take part in technical expert tours free of charge. This year, they could choose between a visit to Frankfurt Airport, the Hessen traffic control centre, the rescue and training centre of the Frankfurt fire brigade, the Frankfurt light rail central workshop and the construction site of the new Schiersteiner Bridge. In addition, an excursion to the particle accelerator facility FAIR led to Darmstadt. The undisputed highlights this year, however, were the excursions to the particle accelerator facility FAIR in Darmstadt and the underground TBM construction site of the U5 project Europaviertel in Frankfurt. The project engineers from the two Porr worksites took the liberty of personally guiding the participants through the construction site and the tunnelling machine and leaving no technical question unanswered.

See You Again in Karlsruhe at STUVA 2021

Even though this year’s event went by far too quickly and the STUVA conference only takes place every two years: After the STUVA-Conference is before the STUVA-Conference! And the venue for the STUVA 2021 has already been determined. In two years there will be a reunion in Karlsruhe. We at STUVA are doing everything we can to make good use of the time until then and again prepare a conference that is unique in this form. Promised!

STUVA-YEP – the “Forum for Young Engineering Professionals” at the STUVA Conference 2019

With more than 80 participants from all over Germany, the members‘ meeting of STUVA-YEP followed by a get-together took place in advance of the STUVA Conference 2019 in Frankfurt a. M. and was very popular. At the start of the event, the speaker Alena Conrads provided an overview of the first two years of STUVA-YEP. In addition to a workshop on digitalisation in tunnelling at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB), there have already been two construction site excursions including short series of talks in Frankfurt a. M. and in Stuttgart. Furthermore, the aims of STUVA-YEP were also presented for newcomers. STUVA-YEP will not only be active all over Germany but will also network with other young, international forums. At the World Tunnel Congress (WTC) 2019 in Naples, the first contacts have already been opened up with young members from other nations. Further international meetings to network young engineers are already being planned.

Then followed the election of the Steering Committee of STUVA-YEP. After a brief presentation of 16 applicants and the subsequent counting of votes, eight members of the Steering Committee have now been named. Anna Zehlicke and Franziska Hebach were named as speakers. The other eight applicants will support its work in the next two years without fixed posts.

The new Steering Committee consists of the following people: Marius Schröer (RUB), Julia Nass and Christian Rhein (representatives of the STUVA without elected term), Sascha Freimann (RUB), Anna Zehlicke (Schüßler-Plan Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH), Tim Lorenz (DB PSU), Annika Jodehl (RUB), Anna-Lena Hammer (RUB), Henrik Wahl (RUB), Franziska Hebach (Porr GmbH & Co. KGaA)

The election was followed by the traditional STUVA-YEP “group photo with sunglasses” (Fig. 5). At an evening dinner together in a relaxing atmosphere, the young engineers finished off the evening at the invitation of the STUVA.

The next day, STUVA-YEP was represented for the first time with their own stand at the STUVA-Expo. The stand served not only as an advertising platform but was also a central destination and meeting point for all young tunnel builders. They could not only learn about the future plans of STUVA-YEP but also make new, interesting contacts or meet STUVA-YEP acquaintances from previous events. On the two days of the expo, more than 70 further engineers could be convinced of the idea of STUVA-YEP.

At this point, once again a heartfelt thanks to all helpers for the support at the expo as well as in the preparation and clearing of the stand.

Most of the speakers at the ”Young Forum” were members of STUVA-YEP. At the subsequent Meet and Greet on the expo stand, interested visitors could talk to the four speakers and ask questions about the subjects of their talks: maintenance planning for excavation tools in shield tunnelling, material concepts for annular gap mortar, a new separation method for used bentonite suspension or a new process model to increase the availability of pipe jacking machines.

The conclusion of STUVA-YEP regarding the STUVA Conference 2019: a great success! Numerous new members were gained – there are now more than 300, a successful new election of the Steering-Committee, numerous interesting contacts; there are plenty of new ideas, but also challenges, for the coming two years.

(Report on “STUVA-YEP” by Marius Schröer)

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