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14 Mar 12. March 13, was the first day of the UK’s leading defence, security, aerospace and space conference and attracted experts from Government, MoD the country’s most influential businesses.

This year’s NDI conference, entitled ‘Building for Growth’ is focusing on the business opportunities and is being held just outside of Bristol at Tortworth Court Hotel.

Tuesday’s schedule included presentations and speeches from all four sectors, with the afternoon session specifically focused on the UK – France Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty, its importance for both countries in maintaining defensive presence and the opportunities it presents to business.

Dave Townsley, executive director NDI, opened the conference giving an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the sector and NDI’s ambitions for 2012.

Dave said: “The defence sector faces drastic budgetary challenges. But there are major emerging markets to capitalise on. India, China and Brazil are all forecasting significant spend, particularly on aerospace. UK businesses need to be in the strongest possible situation to take advantage. NDI’s aim is to match the innovation and capability that UK industry has with the opportunities within international markets. We are placing a stronger focus on global and domestic supply chains, and branching out in to international markets.”

The morning session focused on business opportunities in defence, with speeches from ADS Group, Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill and BAE Naval Systems.

Rees Ward, CEO ADS Group, provided an industry perspective on the Government’s white paper ‘National Security through Technology’.

Rees said: “Delighted that Government has acknowledged that Defence is a first-class industry for the UK, contributing £35bn to the economy and responsible for around 300,000 jobs. It is disappointing that it is not supported by a Government plan for growth which allows industry to understand what capabilities are important for Government and plan future investments accordingly.

Rees also referenced the current skills base in the UK, commenting that it needs to be rebalanced with more apprentices and technicians. Rees said: “The engineering community in this country is out of balance. We desperately need science, technology, engineering and mathematical skills to keep UK advanced engineering and manufacturing ahead of the competition.”

Vice President and Managing Director of Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill, Alan McCormick’s speech focused on the importance of developing industry partnerships to ensure businesses develop and grow. He also commented on Lockheed Martin’s commitment to working with partners to research and produce leading-edge equipment. Alan said, “We never forget who we are ultimately working for. We want to give the armed forces the best equipment we possibly can. That’s our responsibility and that’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.”

Brian Johnson, Director at BAE Systems, spoke about the Type 26 programme, detailing the timeframe for the procurement procedure and calling for long-term supplier relationships across the programme.

“The Type 26 is a Global Combat Ship, with high end capability and will not only operate globally but be developed with suppliers from the global marketplace. At the moment we’re working very closely with the MoD and the Navy to refine the design against the budgets available. It’s a joint approach and a build programme that requires a close working partnership with the MoD. “I would encourage interested businesses to register as a supplier for the programme. We’re planning 15 years worth of ship building and want to create long-term relationships with suppliers and partners across the entire period of the project.”

Mark Haisman, Vice President of Aerostructures Procurement, Airbus, spoke about working with a supply chain within the global economy, the need to support R&T programmes and foster talent in the Aerospace sector.

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