Leck Chet Lam, managing director of Experia Events, addresses how defence tradeshows like MDEX Asia and Singapore Airshow play an extremely critical role as they bring the entire value chain together
How do defence tradeshows like IMDEX Asia and Singapore Airshow raise Singapore’s value as a host city of such high-level gatherings?
International tradeshows such as IMDEX Asia and Singapore Airshow showcase state-of-the-art technology, raising Singapore’s national branding as an innovation hub.
Both events are Asia’s most influential platforms that gather industry stakeholders to contribute dialogues, exchange ideas and seek solutions to enhance the interests of the aviation, maritime defence and security industries. They offer a neutral platform for influential global industry players, promising start-ups, government officials and military representatives not just from Asia but around the world to gather.
In doing so, this demonstrates Singapore’s standing as the gateway to Asia-Pacific and its culture of collaboration, excellence and connectivity.
IMDEX Asia and Singapore Airshow are also important milestone events in the global naval and maritime defence, as well as aerospace and defence industries, respectively. Global and regional companies have established strong business relationships within the region because of the value that these shows bring. Past editions of the Singapore Airshow have recorded billions of dollars worth of deals, and in addition, exhibitors and trade visitors have also contributed significantly to Singapore’s economy.
The success of our events post-lockdown has put Singapore front and centre of the global business audience despite the uncertain economic outlook.
What is the impact of current geopolitical issues on defence tradeshows?
Global geopolitical developments have a marked impact on defence spending around the world and especially in the region. Tension in the South China Sea has led nations to step up their maritime presence to establish control over maritime and trade routes. In addition, navies in the region have embarked on the modernisation of their fleet in order to combat new-age security challenges.
These factors have led to global militarisation to increase rapidly over the course of the 21st century, with a clear recalibration towards the Asia-Pacific. Between 2000 and 2021, annual military spending increased from US$1.1 trillion to US$2.1 trillion. In that time, the share of global defence spending in Asia and Oceania increased from 18 per cent to 28 per cent according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Current geopolitical developments suggest that navies will be more interested in vessels with increased firepower and capable of hosting a plethora of new sensors and unmanned systems. Autonomous vessels have been of key interest across a diverse range of industries and sectors for many years now, and they will continue to pique the interest of the naval and maritime security industry in 2023.
With benefits such as the reduction of officers sailing into danger, and the ability to enter areas that were previously seen as too dangerous or inaccessible for manned ships, autonomous vessels have changed the way we defend our seas.
To respond to global trends, both events will feature the latest technological developments in the industry. In addition, the latest technological innovations in the following sectors will be highlighted at What’s Next@IMDEX Asia 2023 – a launch pad aimed at aspiring startups.
How should Singapore lead the way for trade exhibitions of the future?
Singapore has established itself as a regional hub for global dialogues and events, drawing participants from across the world. With a favourable geographical spot, Singapore is strategically located at the centre of major shipping and air routes, free from natural disasters, thus making us a natural centrepoint for international events and exhibitions. Singapore has also been known for its political stability, efficient transport system and modern infrastructure. However, we must continue to improve and innovate to maintain our leading spot.
To champion our position as a leader in hosting global dialogues, Singapore’s MICE industry needs to focus on technology and innovation.
The adoption of technology in hybrid events also aids in streamlining our logistic processes. This flexibility has allowed participants to attend global dialogues in the comfort of their homes. It has given the MICE industry greater reachability while positively contributing to Singapore’s economy, thus raising the quality of our tradeshows too.
The industry needs to foster partnerships. Collaborating with industry experts as knowledge partners, who can contribute their expertise and insights to trade exhibitions, is crucial in nurturing such innovation.
For instance, for this year’s IMDEX Asia 2023, we are partnering with Starburst to help strengthen and cultivate our What’s Next programme and also to launch the Innovation Challenge – a competition for start-ups to showcase their revolutionary technologies. These programmes will not only give start-ups a chance to showcase their ideas on a global stage but also for key maritime stakeholders to explore and identify innovative solutions that will revolutionise the naval and defence industry.
There needs to be a focus on sustainability – finding innovative ways to be more cost-efficient while enhancing the quality and relevance of Singapore’s events.
As the owner of the Changi Exhibition Centre (CEC), Experia has been taking the active step by availing our facility to support Singapore’s drive towards alternative sources of energy. On the rooftop of CEC, we have 15,000 solar panels installed, capable of producing over 7,840 megawatt hours of power annually, which helps reduce over 3.2 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emission a year.
Attention to the quality of exhibitors, infrastructure and industry trends matter too.
What must Singapore do to continue to draw in exhibitions and conferences of strategic interest?
In 2022, the MICE sector in Singapore showed strong signs of recovery, with the number of international visitors arriving in Singapore surpassing the forecast made by the Singapore Tourism Board.
Singapore’s strong pipeline of landmark events will be distinctive due to our adaptive, innovative and long-term approach towards innovation. With optimism among businesses continuing to increase, we believe the number of events and exhibitions will grow exponentially and allow the MICE industry to reach its full growth potential.
For Singapore to become the preferred destination for global exhibitions and conferences, we need to continue to stay ahead of the curve in terms of embracing innovation that adds business value to exhibitors and enhances visitor experiences.