Planning underway for Defence and Security Equipment International 2017 trade show

Organisers have already started work on the 2017 edition of one the world’s largest – and most controversial – defence and security shows, after its latest edition was held in London last week.

Laser guns, Ebola treatment centres, medevac helicopters and warships were among the displays at Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), organised by Clarion Events.

ExCeL London was transformed into a military base, from 15 to 18 September, for the trade event and conference, which attracted more than 30,000 delegates as well as a week of protests.

Defence and Security Equipment International 2015 at ExCeL London
Defence and Security Equipment International 2015 at ExCeL London

GALLERY: DSEI 2015 in pictures

With a VIP list that included the UK’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon and Minister for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne, event security was tight.

EW was among the visitors to pass a background check as well as five security checkpoints to reach the show floor; fewer checks are needed to board an international flight.

Exhibition director Duncan Reid said most delegates browsing the event’s 1683 exhibitors - up from 1489 in 2013 – were from the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

“NATO countries make up the majority of visitors who come to the show,” Reid explained. “There are quite a lot of countries we don’t invite. This year there’s no one from Russia.”

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) invited 61 countries to send high-level delegations, while private security firms were also represented.

Protestors scheduled a week of demonstrations to disrupt the event’s build-up, criticising the UKTI’s decision to include countries such as Saudi Arabia among high-level delegations.

“DSEI fully respects the rights of all individuals and groups to engage in lawful protest, and we have always accommodated a number of such groups that wish to make their views known to our attendees in a peaceful manner, this year is no different,” Reid said.

The purpose of the exhibition - one of about 20 in Clarion’s defence and security portfolio - was the same as any other trade show, and brought together industry to share content, network and do business, he said.

Reid said most exhibitors did not reveal the level of business they wrote over the event’s four days, because many governments were reluctant to disclose their acquisitions.

Divided into zones for air, land, security and special forces, tri-service, unmanned, and medical innovation, DSEI featured 42 country pavilions representing nations include Australia, the US and Israel.

“Now that’s a bad-ass looking vehicle right there,” observed an American woman, sizing up an anti-riot vehicle.

Aisle after aisle showcased UK and international businesses vying for orders for equipment ranging from tear-gas canisters and high-powered guns, to military uniforms and jet engines.

Meanwhile, eight warships docked beside the waterfront venue welcomed visitors for tours, including INS Trikand; the first Indian Navy vessel to visit London.

At the medical innovation zone, visitors could step inside an Ebola isolation centre and experience graphic training simulations of trauma surgery.

London’s rain got the better of a drone during a waterborne demonstration on day one, with the MC reassuring onlookers: “It’s an all-weather piece of equipment, but this is the wrong kind of rain.”

In 2013, organisers ejected two DSEI exhibitors for displaying promotional material for equipment that was illegal in the UK.

“We’re always looking to improve the processes we have in place to look for compliance breaches,” Reid said, adding that customs officers patrolling the event were responsible for enforcing the law.

Reid said one of his biggest challenges was to continually improve the exhibition and planning for 2017 had already started.

“We will be getting more helicopters, some planes, making it bigger and better,” Reid said.

The next edition of DSEI will be held on 12-15 September 2017, at ExCeL London.