Mast Conference and Exhibition will be held in India from 28-30 November 2018
Cmde Anil Jai Singh
From 28-30 November 2018, the premier international maritime conference and exhibition, MAST (Maritime/Air Systems and Technologies) will be held at the Exposition Centre in Greater Noida, located less than 40 km from India Gate, the centre of the national capital. This will be the first time that this event is being held in India. It is a testimony of India’s growing importance in the global and regional maritime security architecture. The event is being organised by MAST Communications UK, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which is India’s leading industry association, and the Indian Maritime Foundation (IMF), the country’s premier maritime NGO with a wide and diverse range of maritime activities. The event has also been endorsed by the Indian ministry of defence (MoD).
The MAST Conference and Exhibition is an annual event and has grown in prominence and stature since it was first held in Nice (France). Since then this annual event has been held in Washington DC twice, Genoa, Stockholm, Cadiz, Malmo, Rome, Istanbul, Gdansk, Amsterdam and twice in Tokyo.
The event attracts a wide cross-section of delegates including official military delegations, senior industry executives, leading figures from the defence scientific and R&D community and academia. The average attendance at the last three MAST conferences was more than 2,300 delegates at each event.
Over the years it has built up a reputation for providing high-quality technological content through the presentation of papers at the conference where the focus is more on technology than on products, and at the exhibition where leading global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) display and demonstrate their latest innovations and technologies. Its growing reputation is testified by the support it gets from navies and other governmental organisation from various countries including the UKTI DSO, DSTL Australia, ALTA Japan and many others.
In the summer of 2018, a special two-day workshop was organised on ‘Disruptive Technologies’ in Portsmouth UK and was widely attended by European navies and industry. A special plenary session is being held at this event to disseminate its proceedings.
In 2015, the MAST Conference held in Yokohama Japan was a great success and heralded by the global media as the first major defence trade show held in Japan since World War II. The success of that conference has led to the event becoming a regular biennial feature and the 2017 conference held there was an equally big success. The next MAST Conference is being held in downtown Tokyo in the summer of 2019. In fact, in 2019 there is a second conference being planned in Copenhagen in the fall at the request of the Royal Danish Navy. This will be at the same time that a NATO naval exercise is planned in those waters.
The Indian Context
In 2014 when launching the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that foreign participation would be welcome towards developing indigenous capability. Defence was identified as one of the key sectors as self-reliance and indigenisation have been a long-standing goal for India, a pre-requisite to global power status.
Dependency on defence imports is a serious strategic vulnerability which India can ill-afford. In the four years since then, various initiatives and policies have been promulgated by the MoD to realise this vision. Hence, holding the MAST Conference in India could not have been planned at a better time as it offers great advantages and opportunities to all stakeholders from the government, industry and academia, both from India and abroad.
In the last few years, there has been a welcome participation of foreign industry in adding value to Indian naval procurement programmes with increasing levels of indigenisation and transfer of technology. The government has also set the export targets to be achieved in its latest policy document. This can be a boon to foreign OEMs who do not have the bandwidth or are unable to compete for programmes in this region due to their geopolitical constraints or their equipment being simply unaffordable. India is perfectly poised to become an export hub for foreign OEMs who can, with their Indian partners, manufacture in India and offer affordable equipment to these value-conscious markets. For India, becoming a defence exporter is imperative to counter China’s aggressive export of defence hardware into this region.
MAST also provides an ideal platform for Indian industry, both in the public and private sectors to display their products and skills in niche areas to foreign industry, visiting delegations etc. The MSME sector, though hugely talented, is often unable to penetrate the global defence industrial eco-system for want of resources. Hence, their stellar capabilities remain largely unappreciated and unrecognised. Participation in this conference, as well as the exhibition, can provide them with the opportunity to not only interact with technology experts from the participating global OEMs but also showcase their own capabilities towards developing future partnerships with these OEMs to become part of their global as well as local supply chains and participate in offset projects. This event thus provides them with the opportunity to interact and exhibit their capability in a smaller more focused environment vis-à-vis global defence exhibitions.
India has a vast R&D establishment which contributes significantly to India’s defence requirements. MAST provides a good platform for this vast reservoir of talented scientific manpower to interact and share their knowledge for the mutual benefit of the industry as well as the user – the Indian armed forces. The R&D establishment must be encouraged to present papers in their areas of technical expertise.
The users – the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard – stand to gain immensely from this close interaction, both from the technical as well as the warfighting perspective. Rarely does an Indian Navy officer get an opportunity to see cutting-edge equipment on display and listen to experts in the field highlighting the technological innovations in the offing. A user-industry interaction can be of great benefit for both to understand each other better and thereby optimise their effort, cost and exploitation of contemporary and futuristic equipment.
The event is spread over three days with a combination of keynote, plenary and breakout sessions. The impressive credentials of the keynote speakers set the bar very high for the proceedings that follow. The plenary sessions also include high-level participation and will focus on identifying the requirements at a strategic level in a medium-to-long term perspective; the panellists will discuss the opportunities and challenges and offer solutions or a course of action that industry can then focus their efforts on.
The breakout sessions will have three sessions of technical papers running concurrently over the three days. This will provide great flexibility to the participants who can move around between the seminar rooms to gain maximum inputs in their area of interest. This will also generate a very useful exchange of views between the speakers and the audience and lead to a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.
This event differs from the others in that the emphasis is on technology and not marketing of products. Hence, participation from industry in the conference and exhibition is also at a senior technical level.
Notwithstanding the credentials of the speakers in the breakout sessions, each of the paper abstracts is scrutinised by a Technical Conference Committee (TCC) comprising senior experts from the navy, industry, academia, research and development organisations, government expert organisations and independent consultants, thus ensuring their exclusivity.
MAST has an Executive Advisory Board, a Technical Conference committee and an Exhibition Steering group. These comprise thought leaders from the entire domain of maritime security including veteran Flag Officers, top scientists and senior corporate executives amongst others.
Visitors to the free-of-charge exhibition area are still very much a part of the event and can participate in product briefings, lucky draws, Happy Hours and other hospitality, and much more in addition to this.
MAST also facilitates the smooth conduct of VIP interactions through bespoke attention from its Committee and Board members who facilitate walkarounds of the exhibition space and one-to-one interaction. This allows the participating companies and organisations an opportunity to meet senior naval personnel of the host country and other visiting delegations, government officials, senior R&D personnel and other VIPs. Social networking continues after working hours through an informal Happy Hour at the venue and the MAST social evening which is being held at the Hotel Crowne Plaza, Greater Noida on 29 November 2018.
The hosting of the MAST Conference in India provides a great opportunity for officers of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, scientists from DRDO, industry personnel, academics and scholars to share their knowledge at the conference through formal interaction in the form of paper presentation and informal through discussions, Q&A etc.
While the last date for submitting extracts has lapsed, papers from those willing to be heard and offering the wisdom of their knowledge on naval technologies in any aspect – surface, sub-surface, air, autonomous, disruptive, space, cyber – are more than welcome to submit their papers for selection by the Technical Committee by 15 November 2018.
As India seeks to play a larger role befitting its status on the world stage, the government is laying tremendous stress on technology, manufacturing, skill enhancement and digitisation. Defence constitutes a focus area in this regard. The MAST Conference and Exhibition, a globally recognised technology-savvy event being held in India for the first time, can provide the platform to do so in the maritime security domain. This event should be utilised by Indian industry and the science and technology establishment to highlight its prowess through the presentation of papers and participation in the exhibition to showcase their products.
(The detail on submission of papers is available on www.mastconfex.org or alternately please contact Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Vice President Indian Maritime Foundation and the Conference Chairman on email@example.com or mobile no +919560155188)