The 8th iteration of the Defence Simulation, Education and Training (DSET) conference and exhibition will take place 5-8 June 2023, live at the Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol and also online. MS&T Magazine is the Lead Media Sponsor. Dim Jones previews the event.
The Ashton Gate Stadium, situated to the south of the city centre, is a sporting venue, home to the Bristol Bears Rugby Union Football Club and Bristol City Football Club. The stadium has excellent facilities for an event such as DSET, and Bristol has good transport links, being on the M4 motorway and the Great Western Main Railway Line, and with its own regional and international airport. For visitors of a more adventurous disposition, there are also extensive docks, accessible from the Bristol Channel via the River Avon and the Clifton Gorge. Anyone arriving by car needs to be aware of the Bristol Clean Air Zone (CAZ), which encompasses both the city centre and Ashton Gate. (Details can be found at: Bristol's Clean Air Zone.)
DSET is a relative newcomer to the S&T exhibition and conference arena, the first live event having taken place in 2016, and the hybrid format since 2021. However, it has grown rapidly, and in 2022 attracted over 1,000 delegates from 220+ organisations and 32 nations; the organisers, Ruddy Nice, confidently expect to exceed those numbers this year.
Quoting from their promotional material: “DSET is unique and designed to contribute to the advancement of Defence Simulation, Education and Training in the Armed Forces and Blue Light Community. The event is defined by stakeholder input to meet current and future needs.
“While funded by corporate sponsorship, DSET permits the agenda to be defined by the community of the Armed Forces. Thus, the military and government authorities have a platform to showcase issues and set out challenges, share experience and engage directly with others for mutual advantage. Members of the regular and full-time reserve Armed Forces, Blue Light organisations and government officials attend DSET as delegates for free. The event programme seeks to be 90% military/government delivered.”
The 4-day agenda comprises:
- a virtual-only Exhibitor Showcase on Day 1;
- a 2-day Main Conference on Days 2 and 3; and
- MoD Programme Workshops on Day 4.
These will be supplemented by concurrent events:
- a Wargaming Festival on Day 1 and Wargaming Conference on Day 2;
- a Maritime and Naval Conference on Day 3; and
- a Stakeholder Day, Simulation Interoperability and Standards Organisation (SISO) Workshop, Defence Women’s Action Board (DWAB) meeting, and Serious Games Showcase and Challenge (Europe) (SGSCE) Awards on Day 4.
Some details of the programme are still a work in progress, but the latest version can be found on the website at https://dset.co.uk/programme/, as can a link to the registration process. Reduced fees for in-person delegates will be available until 22 May; virtual-only tickets will be available until the event opens, but places are limited.
The virtual-only Exhibitor Showcase on Day 1 (Monday 5 June) will be streamed via the Hopin platform, and will be available to both in-person and virtual delegates. It will comprise a full day of industry presentations from exhibitors, a list of whom can be found at https://dset.co.uk/sponsors/, and there will be the opportunity for delegates to ask questions of the presenters.
The 50-strong exhibitor list covers the full spectrum of size and specialisation, from multinational corporations to SMEs. The Wargaming Festival will be the only live event on 5 June. Virtual delegates will have access to the main conference sessions on Days 2 and 3; the remainder of the conferences and events – eg, Wargaming, Naval and Maritime, Specialist Workshops, SISO, DWAB and SGSCE – will be in-person only. Recorded sessions will be available online for a limited time after the event.
The main conference daily agenda will be divided into 4 sessions of roughly 90-minute duration, and will take the form of panel discussions in which each panel member will give brief views on the session theme, followed by specific questions raised by the session chair and Q&A from the audiences, both live and virtual.
Conference Day 1 themes include: “Delivering Training and Education to Match Complex Modern Warfare”, “Emergency Services and Urban Environment Operations”, “Training and Education Challenges” and “Future Innovation: MS&T Research, Development and Experimentation”. The presenters are drawn from all 3 UK armed services, government, foreign military, industry, R&D, Blue Light organisations, and academia.
Procurement, and perceived shortcomings in the various national processes, have been a recurring topic in conferences I have attended recently, and it is particularly encouraging to note that representatives of procurement agencies will present and take part in discussion; indeed, a Day 2 session entitled “Military and Industry Collaboration” is being chaired by a representative of the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation.
There is little doubt that DSET has come a long way in a short time, and Ruddy Nice’s CEO, Tess Butler, is confident that the development will continue. She notes that the event has “grown four times the size that we were in 2 years; we had over 1,000 delegates last year and so, if we get to 2,000, [DSET would] be the second largest S&T show in the world”, overhauling IT2EC and second only to I/ITSEC.
She also notes that, in order to “ensure that we have the right balance of people, [DSET] is government- and military-led, so it’s all about their challenges, and we have a 70% government and military participation rate [compared] to industry and academia, which is completely unheard of”.
I think that it is only fair to point out that some of the projected growth will have been achieved by widening the scope of the event from purely military (hence the D in the title) to include associated participants, such as Blue Light organisations, and themes which are not solely S&T-focused, and also by providing an environment in which stakeholders, such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and NATO can hold their own events. There is no doubt that there are some common threads to be explored, and that the armed forces – particularly the Army – have much operational and training common ground with the emergency services through commitments such as Military Aid to the Civil Powers (MACP) and to the Civil Authorities (MACA). Nevertheless, although a more diverse programme would undoubtedly be of interest to the audiences, and increased attendance provide greater networking opportunities, and while applauding the ambition and dynamism of the organisers, a balance needs to be struck lest the event lose its military S&T focus.
There is only one way to judge for yourself, and that is by attending. See you in Bristol next month!