Grant Burgham, event director for Clarion’s DSEI, on the event’s 20th anniversary, establishing government partnerships and looking to the future.
What has changed with your appointment as event director?
As the only fully integrated defence and security event, DSEI 2019 will once again be divided into the core Aerospace, Land, Naval, Security and Joint Zones.
In addition, I have also introduced new areas to the show floor, reflecting key growth communities in the sector. This includes two specialist hubs to showcase the Manufacturing and Space sectors. DSEI’s debut Supply Chain programme is also well underway, with a dedicated concierge team curating customised meeting schedules between industry buyers and exhibitors. This is an important new offering to the DSEI audience and we have invested significantly in the programme to ensure its success.
We’ve rebranded the Aerospace Zone to encompass a wider audience, with broader engagement with the RAF and featuring the Tempest sixth generation fighter jet. We’re also seeing the return of some big names to the Aerospace Zone. Airbus will be a key presence in the newly-formed DSEI Space Hub, and Boeing are Strategic Partners in our Supply Chain Programme.
There’s been significant promotion of DSEI internationally as well, with over 45 international pavilions including a debut presence from Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia.
A key area of focus for me has been getting to know our exhibitor community. The scale of the event, and breadth of business, promotional, and networking opportunities on offer during the DSEI week means that advance preparation is key to a successful show. It is of primary importance for me to further support our audience in this preparation and be available to discuss any questions or queries.
To reflect this, the DSEI team together with DIT DSO and key partners, have travelled across the UK to meet exhibitors via a series of briefing and networking events, each designed to inform regional companies about ways to prepare for the event and get involved in advance.
What changed when Clarion first took over the event?
DSEI is unrecognisable from its legendary origins ‘in a muddy field in Chertsey’, and Clarion has overseen significant transformations in the last ten years. Under Clarion’s leadership, DSEI has evolved from an industry exhibition to an event like no other. The more recent editions of DSEI have seen the exhibition floor structured to reflect the five key pillars of national security and defence – Aerospace, Land, Naval, Security and Joint Force. The introduction of the conference and seminar programme in 2013 has further enhanced our offering to the market, providing a platform for industry, military, academia and experts to address the entire defence audience under one roof. No other event brings together all the UK’s military and government leadership teams with international counterparts, it really is the principal occasion for the industry it serves.
Year on year we’ve achieved expansion and growth across the board, with an increase in the international exhibitor and visitor footprint. This year we’re expecting a record 35,000 attendees and over 1600 exhibitors from all around the globe.
How has the show’s relationship with the government evolved over the years?
DSEI is distinguished by the full backing it receives from the defence community, military VIPs and the global procurement audience. These relationships have been pivotal to the event’s evolution and DSEI is recognised today across government as a key showcase of what UK Defence has to offer. Through its conference and seminar and VIP delegation programme, DSEI also provides a diplomatic stage and opportunity for international engagement. Working in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and Department for International Trade has been central to DSEI’s growth and global reputation.
How has the world of defence changed in 20 years?
There have been significant developments in the last 20 years – technological and political – which have driven advances in the defence industry and the capability it has to offer. The changing face of threat; from global terrorism and Improvised Explosive Devices in Afghanistan, to the relentless battles now fought in cyberspace have necessitated some remarkable innovation from companies around the world. The global defence market grew nine per cent from 2008 to 2018, and current projections are suggesting growth of 28 per cent is forecast to 2029. Something we’re proud to reflect at DSEI this year is the growth of involvement in the sector from companies, particularly SMEs, that aren’t traditionally associated with the defence sector. We’re welcoming a series of new companies at this edition of DSEI and helping them break into what can be seen as a ‘closed’ market place.
How does the show make sure it’s showcasing the latest exhibitors and content?
Defence is a sector where innovation is a constant, so our exhibitors are constantly expanding or evolving their products and introducing new ideas. The UK MoD is also known throughout the world for its innovative approaches to military thinking so our challenge is to make sure we give the innovators in our industry the best possible platform to showcase their work. Our refreshed approach of the DSEI floorplan for 2021 has been developed specifically for this purpose.
How will the show be celebrating 20 years?
The next edition will hold a particularly prominent position in DSEI history as we will be marking twenty years since it was first established. As we look to entering our third decade we will be celebrating all that has been achieved across industry over the last twenty years: from Foxhound to F-35. At the same time, DSEI will also shine a spotlight on technology to meet challenges even further in the future. Military medicine, space capabilities, cyber skills and unmanned technology will all be reflected on the exhibition floor.
The Innovation Hub, for example, will provide government and the armed forces with dedicated access to the newest concepts, technologies and capabilities developed by those specialist pioneers that are driving innovation for defence. This offers opportunities for smaller, but dynamic, companies from outside the traditional industry portfolio to supply clever technology for defence and security applications.
To celebrate two decades of supporting the armed forces, DSEI will be hosting its 20th Anniversary reception on behalf of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.
We’ve also produced a DSEI podcast series, featuring the biggest names in the industry, including exhibitors, Ministers and MPs, military personnel and thought leaders.
What will the next 20 years look like? What’s the next step for DSEI?
As event director, I have spent the last two years ensuring we deliver the most engaging, most informative and busiest DSEI to date. However, we have also been working on some major new initiatives to revolutionise and reshape our offering for 2021. A pioneering new floorplan is a reflection of the growing requirement for exhibition space, both from companies in the UK, Europe and globally. This reinforces DSEI as the most important event in the Defence and Security calendar, and a truly international event. We look forward to unveiling this layout over the coming weeks.
We will continue to build our communities in the ‘non-traditional’ defence sectors and the supply chain, forging new alliances with industry players such as Make UK. We predict further growth in the space and cyber domains – which will continue to play a prominent role in defence matters today and in the future.