7am on a rainy Tuesday morning in September

I’m stood waiting shoulder-to-shoulder on platform 3 at Canning Town waiting to take my DLR train to the ExCel. It’s the start of a busy week and the first event for the Aerospace and Defence industry in almost 2 years so I’ve come prepared. Dressed in my Chelton colours, business cards locked and loaded and my refillable water bottle and little notebook packed, I’m ready to soak in everything at DSEI.

A bi-annual event hosted at the ExCel centre in the heart of London’s historic docklands, DSEI lets you get up close and personal with the latest military equipment. With ships, tanks and aircraft on show, it’s also a great place to go antenna spotting! There’s no arguing that DSEI is one of the biggest shows for aerospace and defence with over 36,000 visitors recorded at the last event in 2019. With so many people to meet and products to see, it certainly provides unparalleled opportunities for those networking and talking through business deals.

Walking the floor, listening to the keynote speakers and meeting various people across the industry, here’s the top four themes we picked up on and learnt from the first defence event in 18 months.

1. Nice to see you again

Speaking to many exhibitors and DSEI-veterans, the show did seem busier than anticipated. Even though there were fewer exhibitors than usual, the floor still saw a lot of traffic and meetings in the various breakout areas. What was crystal clear from the week was how happy people were to be meeting in person again. It almost felt, dare I say, ‘normal’.

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2. Defence is as important as ever

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If there’s anything that DSEI has proved this year, it’s that the UK and global defence industry is still as important as ever. The past few years has seen a slowdown in defence spending and this has not been helped by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, due to ongoing major procurement projects, modernisation efforts and a greater use of national militaries during the pandemic, there is a predicted upward five-year defence spending forecast as countries look to increase defence capabilities for protective and humanitarian activities.

3. Equipment for the digital battlefield

When you think of military equipment, your mind might immediately go to large, bulky camo items which require specialist knowledge to use. But the military is operating in an increasingly digital battlefield where time is of the essence and technology is needed to increase efficiency and enable mission success. We noticed a hybrid of modern electronics on display; small, handheld and with elements familiar to the average person but field-deployable and military-graded.


4. E-Events

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Events since 2020 have been mostly online or virtual which doesn’t hold a candle to in-person events but Clarion pulled off a winning combination this year with DSEI Connect. An online event running in parallel to DSEI showcasing all of the keynote speeches and allowing online visitors to build relationships over a secure platform. With travel restrictions set to last for a while yet, this may become the new normal and will allow more in the industry to interact with each other.

Now that we’ve had some time to recover, all we can say is that we can’t wait to do it all over again at the next event! Although perhaps with a more comfortable pair of shoes…

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