I must admit I approached Interbuild with some trepidation this year.

TRADA’s role in co-ordinating the Timber Zone over the past two years has been a success story and it seemed just my luck to take over the helm as the construction industry tumbled into a financial morass.

But was my concern justified? Certainly, the exhibition was noticeably smaller than in past years, almost inevitable in the circumstances; a number of potential exhibitors went out of business in the months leading up to the show and several others pulled out for cost-cutting reasons. Secretly, I wondered whether anyone still in a job would dare to leave the office for a day at the NEC.

Fortunately, my fears proved largely unfounded – I did, in fact, sense a faint glow of optimism.

There were some genuinely innovative products on display and I spoke to many visitors who were actively interested in finding timber solutions for their design challenges. We were pretty busy all week on the TRADA stand. We recorded the details of more than 500 visitors and on several occasions had the audience standing in the aisles for our seminars. Crucially, we spoke with numerous specifiers and contractors asking probing questions about the use of timber and wood-based products.

Constructors do not want to buy materials and build – they want to buy components and assemble.

We at TRADA firmly believe that now is the time to invest in R&D and our message to members as we move forward is simply this: hold fast! Look ahead to what you want to be doing when we come out of the recession – but be warned. This may be very different from what you are doing now.