October 12 – 14 delegates will converge on the Bella Centre in Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, for three days of discussion, listening, exploration and the general horse trading that are part and parcel of modern business networking. It won't all be work, of course. Copenhagen is easy on the eye; a hospitable city with numerous cosy bars and places of entertainment – notably jazz. And of course, it can justly lay claim to being the epicentre of cool design.

The EuroPM series of annual events has become an essential in the PM calendar for those interested in the PM industry in general, research in particular, and, increasingly, the political/business interface. The need to comply with the Europe-wide REACH environmental legislation currently coming into force has come as something of a shock for those who imagined that business and politics were worlds apart. The EPMA is an acknowledged centre of expertise in this very tricky area.

Over the course of the conference delegates will have the chance to hear some 200 technical papers and attend special interest seminars covering PM biomaterials: processing and performance, and MIM equipment and reduction of operating costs. Among the plenary sessions scheduled are “Key areas for development in PM Technology”, as picked out by the well-liked and enthusiastic Olle Grinder, and “European Powertrain Development” a topical area to be addressed by Andrew Fullbrook.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to visit the MAN Diesel production facilities and Diesel Museum in Copenhagen and the Höganäs’ new Swedish powder production plant just across the Oresund Bridge – in itself a marvel of engineering.

But before any of that, the EPMA's president, Ingo Cremer will be making an early start on “the business in hand” when he leads the plenary session with a review of the “Status and Trends in the European PM Industry”, and presumably where it fits in with the rest of this globalised world. He can expect close attention from the audience, but he will be hard put to it to raise a laugh from the year's statistics, that's for sure.

For one aspect of this year already makes sorry reading for PM practitioners, wherever they are based. That is the extent to which the industry has taken a hammering in the first half of this year of recession. Powder shipments, a ready enough marker for productivity if not necessarily profitability, have taken a global beating.

The figures from the US, Europe and Japan were uniformly dreadful in the first quarter and, aggregated around the world, revealed shipment levels of less than half those for the same period of 2008.

Things had eased slightly by the end of quarter two – but only to the extent of being between 50% and 60% of the second quarter levels of 2008. In the world of Finance, this is sometimes termed a “dead cat bounce”. Whatever you may wish to call it, it represents another dreadful result. Obviously, the figures for Q3 are not yet available and Q4 still lies before us.

If previous years’ patterns are followed then Q2 may indeed prove to have been nothing more than a dead cat bounce. Past statistics have shown that a gradual decline during the months of the Northern Hemisphere's summer is to be expected, with levels less predictable in the last quarter.

Statistics are always open to interpretation and one year is by no means a whole story. For dyed-in-the-wool pessimists, of course, dire end of year results will point towards 2009 going into the record books as our annus horribilis, the facts etched deep in the acid red of business failure. It is a point of view that was reinforced last month with the filings for insolvency by non-ferrous powder producers Ecka Granulate and Makin Metal Powders.

But past experience shows that despite losses, business weathers storms. Those who attended the US convention in Las Vegas earlier this year went away uplifted by the thought that though things are not good right now, new developments in auto transmissions and technology generally will offer new and profitable opportunities for PM. There are some indications that those of a positive turn of mind have the right of it.

Höganäs’ recent co-operation with Toyota to produce parts more efficiently (Metal Powder Report; July/August 2009) shows that development is a road that really has no end. There's always a new way to look at a problem, and once you adopt that point of view, then it becomes almost axiomatic that there's more than one way to skin a cat. It's a matter of remaining alert to the possibilities.