Look to ITEC 2019 to spotlight new and disruptive technology within a core theme of interoperability. Europe Editor Dim Jones previews the event.

The 2019 ITEC agenda includes return of the NATO Keynote Panel, a session focusing on medical training, and ‘DisTech’ innovative and disruptive technology.
The 2019 ITEC agenda includes return of the NATO Keynote Panel, a session focusing on medical training, and ‘DisTech’ innovative and disruptive technology.
Image credit: Clarion.

There has been a sea change in recent years in the defence posture of the Scandinavian and Baltic States, due in no small part to the burgeoning threat of an assertive, aggressive and militarily resurgent Russia, observes Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Simon Williams, chairman of the organisers of ITEC, Clarion Defence and Security. Sweden, in particular, is moving to discard the ‘expeditionary warfare’ capability developed since the end of the Cold War, and returning to a ‘garrison’ posture, accompanied by significant increases in defence spending, and an increased emphasis on integrating the military with civil defence.

The 30th anniversary ITEC international training exhibition and conference will be staged 14-16 May at the Stockholmsmässan, Älvsjö, Stockholm. Stockholmsmässan is billed as ‘the Nordic region’s largest fair centre’, and is in a south-western suburb of the city, close to the city centre, well served by regular metro trains, and with several large hotels nearby. Stockholm Arlanda airport is only 10 minutes away by commuter train, which runs eight times every hour. This, like Stuttgart and Rotterdam before it, is a new venue for ITEC – at least in recent times – and, when it was announced a year ago, not, it has to be said, a universally popular choice among exhibitors; it is on the northern fringes of Europe and in a relatively expensive area.

While acknowledging that the location might discourage some exhibitors from Central Europe, RAdm Williams expects that this year’s ITEC will benefit from a regional industry engagement and a new ‘slice of audience’, which might balance any lack of attendance from more traditional supporters. Importantly, both the City of Stockholm and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, which jointly own the Stockholmsmässan venue, are supportive, which is something which cannot universally be said for the hosts of some recent ITECs. Clarion will be hoping for overt support from the Swedish military, which, again, is something which did not really happen in Stuttgart. This relationship will be slightly complicated by the fact that, as anyone who has done military/industry business in Sweden will affirm, all roads lead to the Försvarets Materielverk (FMV), the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration, the organisation of which is programme-specific, and there is no dedicated central element for training.

The format of this year’s ITEC will also be slightly different, in that it will be co-located with two other Clarion events, Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) and the Association of Old Crows (AOC) Electronic Warfare Europe. This mirrors the established arrangement for MilSimAsia in Singapore (see report on page 28), although ITEC will be considerably larger than the MilSimAsia S&T element. Clarion hopes to establish some synergy between the events; to that end, military (and government) delegates will be given automatic admission to all three, while industry and academia who attend one will benefit from significantly reduced admission to the other two. The conferences and more particularly the exhibitions will be separate, casting doubt on the saving for those larger companies who may have a footprint in all three areas. UDT and EW Europe will run from 13-15 May, overlapping ITEC’s 14-16. The ITEC layout will repeat the successful format of previous years, with an exhibition floor and a separate area containing inflatable ‘igloos’ for the conference streams.

The core theme of the conference will be “Interoperable by Design: Connecting People, Technology, and Nations”. Within that theme will be three concurrent tracks:

  • “Human Factors and Performance  in a Connected Age”;
  • “Technologies and Architectures”; and
  • “Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Needs, Emerging Solutions”.

The Conference Chair is Dr Elaine Raybourn, a Principal Member of the Technical Staff in Applied Cognitive Science at Sandia National Laboratories in the US. The theme of Interoperability by Design: Connecting People, Technology, and Nations “could not be more timely and relevant”, Dr Raybourn notes. “Current challenges across the globe require military, civil defense, industry, and research communities to cooperate like never before. Integrated solutions, advancing global peace and intercultural understanding at every level will be key. The ITEC 2019 programme reflects diverse approaches and novel thinking that connect fresh ideas across domains to encourage cross-cutting innovation.”

Other highlights of the conference programme, according to Alice Macklin, Clarion’s conference head of content, will be the return of the NATO Keynote Panel, and the introduction of a new session focusing on medical and first responder simulation training and resiliency, putting a spotlight on the medical side of military training.

Also new to ITEC 2019 is the ‘DisTech’ concept, which is intended to spotlight innovative and disruptive technology; key subject areas will be AR/VR/MR and wearable technology. DisTech recognises the rapid speed at which technology is developing, that both military and civil protection training applications are providing a more realistic and effective training environment, and that the majority of these solutions are coming from start-up companies entering the market for the first time. With smaller budgets to showcase their solutions, companies rely on the cutting-edge tech to speak for itself, whether this is to industry or consumers. The DisTech stream will take place in a show-floor theatre, with a mix of curated content and paid-for speaking slots. Sponsors and commercial presenters are required to bring an end-user with whom to co-present, thus discouraging heavy sales pitches, and demonstrating practical and relevant applications for their technology.

The agenda is available to view on the ITEC website, and the Early Bird delegate ticket price deadline is 19 March. Military passes grant complimentary access to the conference sessions of all three co-located events; paying delegates can add access to the UDT Global and EW Europe conferences for an additional fee. All visitors can access the exhibition areas of the three co-located events free. However, exhibition-only visitors registering from Wednesday 1 May onwards will be charged a late-registration administration fee.

Based on the array of announced speakers from Europe, the US, and even South America, ITEC 2019 has the promise to be a valuable forum in which representatives from across the military, civil, industry and academic sectors can view the latest advances in technology, and connect and share knowledge about military simulation, training and education. See you in Stockholm

Originally published in Issue 1, 2019 of MS&T Magazine.