Cyber, defense technology, coalition interoperability, NATO contracting opportunities and Ukraine were among the topics discussed at the NATO Industry Conference and TechNet International 2014, held in Bucharest, Romania. For the third time, the NATO Communications and Information Agency and AFCEA Europe organized a joint conference and exposition. The two organizations generated a program with an agenda of truly intertwined sessions relevant to all.
Romania was the host nation of this event, and the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency and AFCEA Europe benefited from direct support from the Romania Ministry of Defense. This year also marked the 10th anniversary of Romania’s accession to NATO. The level of the conference and access to special venues, as well as the presence of high-ranking officials, could not have been attained without the ministry’s generous support.
A major element of this event was its networking opportunities. More than 30 representatives from the NCI Agency explained contracting opportunities with NATO during breakout sessions and basic ordering agreement (BOA) processes in the dedicated BOA’s meeting room as well as during the entire conference. The exposition featured 34 exhibitors participating in the conference, focusing on the theme “From Assets to Services—Capability Delivery in the 21st Century.” Having officials speaking directly with industry representatives on a one-on-one basis and answering real-life situational questions that address their particular questions and challenges turned out to be key to the event.
The focus of this annual conference always has been on industry, with the main objective of bringing it into contact with high-ranking decision makers and experts from NATO and the military, government, academia and technology. The other important objectives are to inform industry on contracting opportunities and processes with NATO, and to present an educational conference program featuring sessions on the latest developments and happenings in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as electronics and cyberdefense. In the ever-changing and connected globalized world, these are the issues on the front page of defense today.
More than 30 members of the press attended the event, where they had the chance to interview Koen Gijsbers, the general manager of the NCI Agency. Given the current political situation, much discussion during the conference focused on the Ukraine issue and the differing perceptions of Russia and NATO.
Participants came from 30 countries all around the world—a new record for this event. Attendees from Europe represented 88 percent of all delegates, and 10 percent came from North America. Other regions such as Australia, the Middle East and Africa also were represented. Industry attendees represented all sizes of companies from contractors, to small and medium businesses, to the very top international leaders in their fields. During the conference, business-to-business meetings were held over three days and resulted in 47 bilateral matchmaking meetings.
Some of the networking opportunities also included unique social events. The delegates were treated to special access to the Palace of the Parliament, one of the largest buildings on Earth, as well as the Marble Hall of the National Military Circle of Romania, where officers’ balls and other high-level military social events take place.
Each year the joint conference has surpassed the previous one in size, with 350 attendees in Heidelberg in 2011, 600 attendees in Rome in 2012 and with more than 700 attendees in Bucharest this year. This year, 66 percent of conference attendees came from industry, 24 percent from military or government and 10 percent from academia or another field.
The next NATO Industry Conference and TechNet International will take place in Madrid, Spain, in the spring of 2015. Before then, TechNet Europe 2014 will be organized in cooperation with the European Defence Agency in Paris October 9-10.