x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Idex shows tables are turning

Idex focus: Rather than seek out partners at this year Idex event the UAE is being actively sought out for deals.

Homaid al Shemmari, the executive director for business development at Mubadala Aerospace.
Homaid al Shemmari, the executive director for business development at Mubadala Aerospace.

UAE companies are being sought for partnerships by international entities at this year's International Defence Exhibition (Idex).

Homaid al Shemmari, the executive director for business development at Mubadala Aerospace, said it marked a change in the way the Emirates and international companies were doing business.

"It's a subtle shift in the paradigm at this Idex in particular, because people are approaching us," he said. "It's all sectors of Mubadala you see represented, not just aerospace."

Many international companies at the event in Abu Dhabi have expressed surprise at the capabilities shown by Mubadala Aerospace's subsidiaries in areas such as pilot training, maintenance of vehicles and aircraft, satellite construction, and financing for the military, he said.

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"In some senses Idex is about relationship continuation," Mr al Shemmari said, "But you have 1,060 exhibitors from 53 countries so you are bound to find a new partner."

Earlier this year, the US defence giant Lockheed Martin bought a stake in a UAE military aircraft repair and maintenance company owned by the Mubadala subsidiary Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies and Sikorsky Aerospace Services.

The Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Centre (Ammroc) was founded last year to service the 450 planes and helicopters owned by the UAE Armed Forces, and is part of Mubadala Aerospace's goal to develop a domestic aerospace industry through a cluster of businesses based in Al Ain.

The company is a business unit of Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

"Mubadala overall is built in partnerships, creating partnerships and finding win-win scenarios for us and our partners. Idex gives us a platform to develop that further," said Mr al Shemmari, who is also the chairman of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies and Ammroc.

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The UAE is building an aerospace industry from scratch, Mr Shemmari said, and it had been a challenge to find suitably skilled Emirati staff to take high-level jobs in the sector.

"The education system was not supportive of this industry and did not understand this industry," he said.

This is also now changing, as Mubadala has built relationships with many educational institutions in the country, such as the Abu Dhabi Education Authority, the Institute of Applied Technology and Zayed University. Mubadala has brought these academies and its industrial partners such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing together.

"The institutes and colleges are now focusing on the talent that we need: maths; science; and engineering," Mr al Shemmari said.

He said at least 75 per cent of the workforce in companies such as Ammroc had to be Emirati, as such organisations would have to support the military when required.

"We have to be very [specific] in hiring," Mr al Shemmari said. "These are sectors with high-level content, know-how and tech transfer."

 

rjones@thenational.ae