Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the International Defence Conference (IDC 2021), concluded Saturday 20 February. The conference was held for the first time in a hybrid format, with attendees being welcomed virtually and in-person.
Held at the ADNOC Business Center, the conference brought together over 24 experts and specialists in the defence sector, 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 the Protection in the Era of the 4IR’, the conference is organised by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) and the Tawazun Economic Council (Tawazun), in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense and the General Command of the UAE Armed Forces. The conference was held prior to the launch of the International Defence Exhibition and the Naval Defence Exhibition (IDEX and NAVDEX) 2021, which is taking place from 21-25 February at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre.
H.E. Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs in the UAE, inaugurated the conference. His Excellency highlighted how the UAE plays a critical role in advancing global defence industries. Subsequently, four main sessions were held, with the participation of a group of Emirati and international figures specialised in topics including defence affairs, advanced technology, and the fourth industrial revolution.
“The United Arab Emirates have harnessed the wealth of possibilities made available by using advanced technology and artificial intelligence. Our nation has coped with the pandemic on the local and global stage effectively and efficiently. In spite of the darkest of circumstances, the UAE continues to achieve momentous scientific and cultural achievements. Furthermore, we extended the hand of friendship to many nations around the world struggling during this time. Our nation exemplified the model of driving disruptive, yet systematic progress. We are a capital of tolerance; a beacon for peaceful coexistence. Our achievements are achievements for all of humanity,” he commented.
“Today, we hold an excellent opportunity to discuss how to protect the development of artificial intelligence and cutting-edge technology. Furthermore, we can confer on how the pandemic has impacted supply chains for global private sector companies, including industries such as healthcare, transportation, and of course, defence. The pandemic has forced us to reconsider supply chains, ensuring they are more resilient to face future challenges.” the Minister added.
“Additionally, technologies of the fourth industrial revolution are crucial for future defence capabilities. This is particularly pertinent as a number of these revolutionary methods greatly differ from traditional defence industries. Our industry has to work together to protect these pieces of technology from being used by malevolent state and non-state actors. The defence sector must co-operate carefully with a wide range of stakeholders in order to accelerate innovation and integrate new and modern technologies into our daily practice.”
“The rapid influx of technology is creating greater complexity in the defence sector. As such, research and development in the security sector is increasingly critical to building more secure defence infrastructure. Of greatest concern is the need for cooperation between researchers working in the public sector, the private sector, and academia. We need to ensure that defence applications of the fourth industrial revolution continue to evolve, and accordingly, establishing centres for extensive research and testing is of serious gravity,” the Minister added.
“Finally, we must meticulously examine how cyber security aligns with technological transformation. Future defence confrontation will take place in the realm of the digital. Government and non-governmental organisations must carefully collaborate to realise tactical, operational, and strategic digital defence protocols. Our world is now intricately interwoven electronically, and the need of cybersecurity to protect that world is paramount, particularly in the realm of defence.”
The first session, held under the title ‘Exploring innovative opportunities in supply-chain ecosystem management beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic’, welcomed H.E. Suhail Bin Mohammed Faraj Faris Al Mazrouei; Helmut Rauch, CEO & President of Diehl Defence; and Tim Cahill, Senior Vice President at Lockheed Martin International. This session is moderated by Badr Al Olama, Head of Mubadala Aerospace - Mubadala Investment Company.
The second session, held under the title ‘Protecting AI and other technologies of the fourth industrial revolution technologies in the age of collaboration and diffusion’, was joined by H.E. Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama; Micael Johansson, Chief Executive Officer at Saab Group; Heidi Grant, Director of the Defence Security Cooperation Agency in the United States of America, and Eric Papin, Executive VP Technical and Innovation Officer, Naval Group. This session is moderated by Tate Nurkin, CEO and President of the OTH Intelligence Group and Fellow at the Atlantic Council.
The third session focused on ‘Strengthening the defence industries R&D in an increasingly dynamic global context’. Participants on this session included: Faisal Al Bannai, CEO and Managing Director of EDGE; His Excellency Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani, CEO of the Tawazun Economic Council; Dr. Uzi Rubin, Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Institute of 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, General Director of General Directorate for Defence Investments and Armaments (GDDIA). This session is moderated by Dr. Noah Raford, Chief of Global Affairs and Futurist-in-Chief, Dubai Future Foundation.
The Conference concluded with the fourth session entitled ‘A holistic view on cyber security resiliency during the era of digital transformation.’ Speaking at the session were: H.E. Dr. Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, Head of Cyber Security for the UAE Government; Vice Admiral Dinesh Kumar Tripathi AVSM NM, Director General of Naval Operations; Dr. Najwa Aaraj, Chief Researcher at the Cryptography Research Centre at the Technology Innovation Institute; Marco Obiso, Cybersecurity Coordinator at the International Telecommunication Union; and Tõnu Tammer, Executive Director of CERT-EE in the Estonian Information System Authority. This session will be moderated by Dr. Bushra AlBlooshi, Head of Research and Innovation at the Dubai Electronic Security Centre.