Multinationals are no longer aiming to just sell products into the UAE, but are increasingly looking for local partnerships to help develop ongoing defence services.
"I think an indigenous industry is really important for the UAE," said David Adler, the president of Sikorsky Aerospace in the US.
"The [UAE] has really moved on from the last Idex as a provider.
"I give everybody a lot of credit here, we're doing business with switched on people," he said. Along with Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky Aerospace is a major shareholder in the Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Centre (Ammroc), part of Mubadala Aerospace's goal to develop a domestic aerospace industry through a cluster of businesses based in Al Ain.
Ammroc was founded last year to service the 450 planes and helicopters owned by the UAE Armed Forces and aims to become a global leader in military aviation services.
"Locally based companies are focused, you can tell they really want to build a high-tech industry," Mr Adler said.
Ammroc is just one of a number of initiatives designed to shift the UAE's defence dynamic away from a traditionally cash-rich buyer to a provider of services.
Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, last week launched Bayanat, based in the capital, which is set to become a national leader in surveying, mapping and geospatial information services. The group's showpiece at Idex yesterday was its flat 3D map of Ferrari World on Yas Island.
Rashed al Mansoori, the new company's chairman, said it would welcome deals with the private sector internationally.
"We aim to have a partnership with an international company, because this is part of the knowledge transfer," he said.
Mark Thompson, the business development director for the UK-based Babcock International, said the development of the UAE defence industry was "crucial" to the economy. The company is looking to sign further partnerships with subsidiaries of Mubadala.
"Deals in the region are built on relationships," Mr Thompson said.
"As a service provider of defence systems, we're trying to take advantage of the UAE's new local businesses."