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IDEX 2021: International Defense Conference 2021 discusses the future of the defense industry and new technologies

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The 2021 International Defense Conference kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, February 20th. The conference is held before the start of the International Defense Exhibition and Maritime Defense Exhibition (IDEX and NAVDEX) 2021.
Image credit: Abdul Rahman / Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The 2021 International Defense Conference kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Saturday 20 February.

The conference was held for the first time in a hybrid format, with attendees virtually and personally welcomed. The conference, held at the ADNOC Business Center, brought together over 24 defense experts and specialists, with over 2,400 delegates from 80 nations joining the conference.

Held under the theme of the prosperity and development of artificial intelligence and advanced technology and defense in the 4IR era, the conference is organized by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company (ADNEC) and the Tawazun Economic Council (Tawazun), in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense and the Command General of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates.

The conference will be held before the start of the International Defense Exhibition and Maritime Defense Exhibition (IDEX and NAVDEX) 2021, which will be held from 21 to 25 February at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.

New defense technologies

Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defense Affairs in the UAE, inaugurated the conference. He stressed how the UAE plays a critical role in advancing the global defense industries. Afterwards, four key sessions were held, with the participation of a group of Emirati and international figures specializing in topics including defense issues, advanced technology, and the fourth industrial revolution.

Today, we have an excellent opportunity to discuss how to defend the development of artificial intelligence and the most advanced technology. Furthermore, we can discuss how the pandemic has affected supply chains for global private sector companies, including industries such as healthcare, transportation and of course, defense. The pandemic has forced us to review supply chains, ensuring they are more resilient to meet future challenges, said Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defense Affairs.

The rapid influx of technology is creating a greater complexity in the defense sector. As such, research and development in the security sector is increasingly critical to building a more secure defense infrastructure. The biggest concern is the need for collaboration between researchers working in the public sector, the private sector and academia.

The first session, entitled Exploring Innovative Opportunities in Ecosystem Management with Supply Chain Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic, was joined by Suhail Bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei; Helmut Rauch, CEO and President of Diehl Defense; and Tim Cahill, Senior Vice President at Lockheed Martin International. This session was moderated by Badr Al Olama, Head of Mubadala Aerospace, Mubadala Investment Company.

Over the past year, we have been working to finalize the drafting of the new maritime bill, and we are now finalizing its adoption. In addition, we have issued five ministerial decisions to regulate the UAE maritime sector. We are constantly seeking to ensure that legislation keeps pace while ongoing developments in the marine industry, said Suhail bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Industry.

The need for cooperation

Ahmad bin Abdulaziz Al-Ohali, Governor of the General Authority for Military Industries said that cooperative investments in research and technological development are essential for creating a strategic advantage in the modern war arena. In line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, the government launched a pandemic defense localization program, aiming to localize over 50 percent of Saudi military spending and increase our R&D budget from 2 percent to 4 percent.

Competition is healthy for efficiency and creativity. However, in the defense sector, cooperation is not optional; necessary. It complements innovations, supply chain management and hiring schemes. Some of life-changing technological innovations, such as Global Positioning Satellites, the Internet, medical robotics, unmanned vehicles and autonomous instruments were first developed in the defense sector, Al-Ohali said.

The role of artificial intelligence

The second session, held under the title Protecting AI and Other Technologies of the Fourth Technologies of the Industrial Revolution in the Age of Cooperation and Dissemination, was joined by Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama; Micael Johansson, Chief Executive Officer at Saab Group; Heidi Grant, Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in the United States and Eric Papin, Executive Officer VP Technical and Innovation, Naval Group. This session is moderated by Tate Nurkin, CEO and President of the OTH Intelligence Group and Member of the Atlantic Council.

Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Distance Work Applications, reaffirmed the UAE’s position towards designing the future, actively planning through the creation of innovative initiatives enabling it to collaborate with global change. Artificial intelligence is the key aspect in reshaping the world; we are currently witnessing a growing infusion of systems that are productive and critical to our economies, said Al Olama

The Minister reiterated the importance of capacity building and investing in human capital in deploying artificial intelligence. There are a number of challenges in adopting AI, so countries need to prepare future generations who are able to develop and maintain those systems and ensure the effective deployment of artificial intelligence across the nation.

Research and development

The third session focuses on Strengthening defense industry research and development (R&D) in an increasingly dynamic global context.

Participants in this session included: Faisal Al Bannai, CEO and Managing Director of EDGE; Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani, CEO of Tawazun Economic Council; Dr. Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security; Kim Yoon Seok, Deputy Minister Office of Military Force and Resource Management in South Korea; and Lieutenant General (rtd) Theodoros LAGIOS HAF, Director General of the Directorate General for Defense Investment and Armaments (GDDIA). This session was moderated by Dr. Noah Raford, Chief of Global Affairs and Futurist General, Dubai Future Foundation.

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