Céline Futterknecht has directed and moved ILMAC, the Swiss industry platform for chemistry and life sciences, since March 1, 2022. The Basel-native took over from Michael Bonenberger, who made a significant impact on ILMAC over the past few years. Thanks to years of experience in the chemistry and life sciences sector, this marketing specialist is familiar with the entire spectrum of this multifaceted industry. Barely in office, the former hotelière-restauratrice sat down with the ChemieXtra editorial team for an exclusive interview to answer some questions.

Roger Bieri: 

So, you’ve been working as the new ILMAC Director for two weeks now. What are you working on at the moment?

Céline Futterknecht: I’m currently getting to know my team and getting an overall picture of ILMAC’s extensive structure. I will be visiting the first customers soon. It’s important for me to get to know our stakeholders in personal discussions in order to get an idea of their needs and requirements, before I then define concrete areas of action together with the team.

The events industry is not exactly a walk in the park. The past two years have been marked by challenges that the organizers have had to face. Why are you getting into this industry?

Futterknecht: Hardly any industry is as diverse as this one! You deal with a wide variety of stakeholder groups. I am also staying true to the pharmaceutical and chemistry sector. For me personally, working in this field is a further development step. I firmly believe that the need to see each other in person, to experience services and products, and to exchange ideas with peers is greater than ever. At the same time, trade fairs as a marketing tool have been in a transformational phase for some time now. I find this dynamic incredibly exciting and see it as a great opportunity to make a difference right now – especially in times like these. In my opinion, ILMAC has enormous potential. (Image: MCH Group)

What do you mean by «to make a difference right now – especially in times like these»?

Futterknecht: Like many other companies and industries, the events industry is also changing. What’s important now in order to meet the requirements, is to analyze which stakeholder groups there are, how they are developing, and what their needs are.

The next ILMAC is ILMAC LAUSANNE in September. Do you have any ties to French-speaking Switzerland?

Futterknecht: Yes, I grew up bilingual. My mother is from Morges (VD) and my father from France. I can relate to the French-speaking Swiss very well. Not only do I speak their language, I am also familiar with their mentality.

Let's stay on this topic for a moment. The German-speaking Swiss keep talking about wanting to overcome the Röstigraben. Does the «Röstigraben» even exist?

Futterknecht: In general, the French-speaking and German-speaking Swiss have a different mentality. Although Switzerland is so small, the mentalities and cultures are very different. From my own experience, I would say, yes, there is a kind of «Röstigraben». But it’s also great that we’re all so different and live together in one country. I see it as a great advantage that I understand and support both mentalities and can interact accordingly with our customers and target groups.

What are you particularly looking forward to in your new role and what are you cautious about and have respect for?

Futterknecht: I am very much looking forward to getting to know the exhibitors, continuing existing projects in the team, and bringing in new ideas. I am cautious about and have respect for situations that I cannot influence, such as the pandemic or geopolitical developments.

Can you tell us about any projects you’ll be initiating?

Futterknecht: We will continue to expand our digital platform into a Content Hub (ILMAC Community) for the laboratory and process technology sector and thus offer the industry a 365-day platform to obtain information and stay up to date.

In other words, we will strengthen our digital options, which we can then offer exhibitors and visitors as an extended service. Exhibitors and visitors can contact us 365 days a year, and visitors can get information about exhibitors’ reports on an ongoing basis.

It’s also important for me to acquire additional younger target groups (visitors and exhibitors). The ILMAC brand should become more well-known. I would like to increase awareness of the brand in terms of communication and marketing. I am targeting young companies that are not yet familiar with ILMAC, or expats and young companies from abroad who have only recently made contact with Switzerland and who could be interesting potential exhibitors or visitors.

You spoke a lot about online topics now. As a former hotelière-restauratrice, personal encounters must be extremely important to you. Do you think the pandemic has increased awareness of the importance of real connections?

Futterknecht: As already mentioned, I really believe that there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of meeting in person again and exchanging ideas. I also think there might even be a rebound effect and more people are going to want to meet up than before. ILMAC, in particular, exhibits technically sophisticated equipment, which requires a live platform. It would be extremely difficult to show this complexity and make it tangible remotely or via video.

Thank you for chatting to us!

About Ms. Futterknecht

Céline Futterknecht completed her studies in the hotel industry, but has held various positions in marketing and communication in the chemistry and life science industries since 2006 – most recently as a brand manager in a pharmaceutical company. She has a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Marketing Management.


Dauer                           Mittwoch, 28. und Donnerstag, 29. September 2022
Öffnungszeiten      9.00 bis 17.00 Uhr
Ort                                 Expo Beaulieu Lausanne, Halle 7
Veranstalter             MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG

The Interview was published in ChemieXtra, 19.04.2022 (https://chemiextra.com/die-ilmac-hat-grosses-potenzial/),
MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG,
David Spichiger, SCS