Intergraf: Turning challenges into opportunities in the digital age

5th Nov, 2017

Based in Brussels, the European Federation for Print & Digital Communciation (Intergraf) promotes and protects the interests of the printing and graphic industry, at present with 21 members representing their national industries in 19 European countries. Beatrice Klose, ‎Secretary General of Intergraf, talks about why the printing industry is still alive and well in Europe.

When was Intergraf founded?

Printing is a traditional trade and international cooperation dates back to the 1920s. First contacts were established in in 1923 in Sweden, before an association was officially founded in 1930 in Germany. The association moved to the UK in 1946 before being transformed into what it is today in 1984, at which point it was also moved to Brussels.

According to your website, the printing industry in Europe has an annual turnover of approximately €80 billion, consists of some 120,000 companies (mostly small enterprises) and employs some 630,000 people. What are your thoughts on the current state of the printing industry in Europe in the digital age?

With digitalisation becoming more and more important we tend to forget that we are surrounded by countless printed products in our everyday lives. From advertising material to books, magazines, cash, food packaging and myriad more items, print remains a pervasive medium of communication in Europe. The communications mix is a complementary assortment of different media channels – digital, of course, but also more long-established mediums like print.

Digitalisation has undoubtedly changed and diversified the communications mix, creating challenges for the printing industry. But the digital revolution has also presented the sector with many opportunities. Developments in data privacy and security, for instance, offer printers the opportunity to become experts in this field and related digital jobs like graphic design and web design are frequently retained by printers in-house. Many printers in Europe have themselves diversified in the face of digitalisation and have been very successful in doing so. This is all reflected in recent figures, which show that the printing industry in Europe is beginning to stabilise after some years of decline.

One of the biggest challenges faced by the printing industry and consequently also Intergraf as a trade association, concerns the image of print. Intergraf works closely with print-positive campaigns like Keep Me Posted, TwoSides and PrintPower to help correct misunderstandings about the sector. Printed products have numerous advantages – both commercially and environmentally – and we want to communicate this as widely as possible.

Is digitalisation still the most significant trend?

Yes. Digitalisation not only affects companies’ internal processes (i.e. by making them more efficient), but also their business models. Many companies now offer webshops for clients and the rise of photobooks, individualised printed phone cases and other possibilities of single designs demonstrates the interest in new types of printed products.

What sets Intergraf apart from similar associations in the region?

Intergraf covers all aspects of the printing industry, including packaging printing, whereas other associations are more specialised in certain niche processes or products. Moreover, we are a truly global association. Alongside our EU advocacy work, we also organise a worldwide conference and exhibition, the Security Printers, International Conference & Exhibition. This event isone of the foremost events in the calendars of producers of secured printed products like passports, ID cards or banknotes and is attended by delegates from more than 70 countries.

What kind of events does Intergraf organise?

Intergraf organises four regular events, held on a rotational basis in different European countries. Internally, there is our Directors’ Conference, General Assembly and Print Matters for the Future! conference. These events are held annually for up to 60 representatives of our national member associations and companies.

Our largest event is the Security Printers, International Conference & Exhibition. Continuously growing, this event has connected technological innovators and institutional end users since 1976. Organised every 18 months, the event gathers over 800 carefully selected representatives from governments, central banks, law enforcement, postal authorities, security printers and suppliers from all over the world. It offers a platform for delegates to explore, benchmark, learn and connect. In contrast to just about all other events in the field, Security Printers has no commercial objective and is not sponsored. Neutrality and objectivity are guaranteed.

What do you look for in venues and destinations for your events?

For Security Printers there are a number of criteria we consider when choosing the destination. Among them, the accessibility, size and functionality of the venue and the proximity of good hotels. The budget is of course also an important characteristic, but it is similarly essential to be able to establish a good relationship with the team onsite.

What is it like working for Intergraf?

It is a pleasure to help such a traditional industry in their transformation and to observe companies evolving into modern digital businesses. With the rapid evolution of the sector our work in Brussels becomes ever more diverse, but this keeps our job interesting over the years! With such a wide array of topics, it is challenging every day to select the right priorities for our members and ensure a workable regulatory framework for the 120,000 companies that rely on us throughout Europe.

What are the main trends in the association industry that are likely to impact your organisation?

Aside from best practice exchange among national associations, our work is mainly determined by the agenda of the European Commission. Although one of the most noticeable association trends we see is that there is more cooperation between different associations in order to pool resources. In the field of events, we are improving and offering our delegates more interactivity via our mobile app, while at the same safekeeping the confidential nature of the business of security printing.

Any future plans?

We always strive to change our work and improve our services to ensure that we cover all of the topics necessary for our members and the wider industry. To do this, we cooperate with other trade associations that are closely linked to our sector – such as publishers, postal operators and marketing associations – for instance through conducting joint campaigns on specific issues. This cooperation is very valuable for us.

We are also currently expanding into different types of membership (e.g. associate membership). This is an exciting journey which will allow us to combine more expertise and offer more value to our members.

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