It was a record-breaking year for Canada’s largest defence and security trade show, according to newly released data from the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries.
The association has confirmed that CANSEC recorded over 12,000 registrants for the show at Ottawa’s EY Centre on May 29-30, including over 5,000 from government and the Department of National Defence. Fifteen MPs also showed up to tour the floor as the spring session of Parliament wound down.
“This really was a banner year for us,” said CADSI President and CEO Christyn Cianfarani. “CANSEC is a carefully curated show that punches above its weight on the international stage. My personal feeling as I walked the floor and chatted with people was that we have hit our stride. We’re delivering what people want to see.”
That included an expanded slate of high-quality indoor and outdoor exhibits for 2019, with a special appearance by one of the RCAF’s new CH-148 Cyclone helicopters. The Sikorsky chopper was set up as a static display and made completely accessible to attendees under the watchful eye of several RCAF pilots. It quickly became a major attraction, with lines forming to get a peek inside.
In the weeks leading up the show, reports also began circulating that a long-awaited request for proposals linked to Canada’s future fighter aircraft was imminent. During his keynote address on May 29 Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan pledged that it would indeed be released this July. Both Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister Navdeep Bains and Public Services and Procurement (PSPC) Minister Carla Qualtrough echoed Sajjan’s commitment during their visits to CANSEC.
“We’re proud to have provided a space for all the potential future-fighter bidders to display their technologies and capabilities,” Cianfarani said. “That’s what CANSEC is all about, after all.”
CADSI’s renewed focus on the digital battlefield was also evident this year, with a new area of the trade show dedicated to Canadian companies that specialize in robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber defence and more. The R9B Innovation Hub and Cyber Labs were packed for the entire two-day run, according to Cianfarani, who accompanied Minister Bains on a tour of some of the booths inside.
Discussions are already underway within CADSI to determine how they can build on this success in 2020, she added.
“Cyber is a major priority for us right now as an industry association,” Cianfarani said. “Strong, Secure, Engaged has committed billions of dollars to cyber defence infrastructure and programming for the Canadian Forces over the next decade. If properly coordinated, these investments could build Canada’s cyber defence industry in a way that keeps talent and capabilities in Canada and gets technology into the hands of the CAF faster.”
According to CADSI, the international component of CANSEC is yet another potential growth area. Over 55 delegations were in town for the 2019 show, the association confirmed, helping to cement the international relationships that remain critical to the Canadian defence industry’s success.
With CANSEC 2019 now in the rearview mirror, Cianfarani said the planning cycle will begin anew over the summer. That will mean taking stock of what worked and where there is still room for improvement, she explained, guided by feedback from exhibitors and other show partners.
“CANSEC is a year-round project for us,” she said. “I always say, we may be limited by floor space, but we’ve never been limited by imagination.”