Game Changer: Simon Jacques, Airbus Defence & Space Canada Inc.

As President of Airbus Defence & Space Canada Inc., a division of Airbus Defence Space Inc., Simon Jacques is “responsible for all Airbus Defence and Space programs in Canada” by providing “oversight and direction at all stages, be it before or during an RFP and while executing a contract.”

The Airbus portfolio “is quite expansive” with the likes of the C295W which is perhaps their most recognisable product, but, according to Simon, “satellites and space systems” are also an important part of their business.

Jacques has been instrumental in leading his company and his number one job is to “sell Canada to Airbus.”

Read more to learn how Simon is working in changing the game within the industry.

Tell us how you started out in the industry and what’s brought you to where you are today?

I have always been interested in aviation and aerospace. After six years as a Cadet in Sherbrooke, Eastern Township, I joined the Royal Military College with the hopes of being a pilot, but unfortunately, my eyesight had other plans. That worked out pretty well, as I instead got the opportunity to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy as a Combat System Engineer on Halifax Class frigates, where I learned a lot about defence technologies.

After serving 11 years in the Canadian Forces, I joined a global communication technology company. I spent seven years doing business development activities to sell defence system to DND here in Canada as well as globally.

When I joined Airbus Group in 2009 it brought me full circle, in a sense, to my original passion of aerospace.

 What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

I get to work with an outstanding team every day. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by exceptionally talented people, whose skills and drive are what makes progress for Airbus in Canada. That’s very personally and professionally rewarding.

The team, also means more than just the people I work with in the office. We’re lucky to partner with outstanding Canadian companies that help us create better value and better products, both at home and around the world. Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue is a good example of this, where our Canadian partners (PAL Aerospace, P&WC, CAE and L3 Wescam) are also global ones. We built long-lasting relationships with Canadian companies that helped us to improve the C295 program globally.

What was your aha moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?

It took me a while to figure out that my number one job is to sell Canada to Airbus, and not just the other way around. I’m not just the Airbus voice in Canada, but the Canadian voice in Airbus.

There’s a tremendous amount of innovative and exciting work taking place in Canada, and connecting it to what Airbus is doing globally is good for all involved. This is especially true on the space side of our business. Airbus is the second-largest space company in the world. By connecting Canadian space companies, universities and other industries with what Airbus is doing globally, the company benefits and so does Canada.

What is the best advice you received?

The best advice I ever received was about focus. Focus, is the difference between reaching your goals and just thinking about them. Once you’ve figured out what you want, whether it be personal or professional, you have to keep focusing your energy from all angles to get there.

How is your organisation changing the game within your industry sector?

It’s an exciting time to be involved in the aerospace sector in Canada! We’re very excited to begin the process of providing C295Ws to Canada as part of the FWSAR program. When the first aircraft arrives in Canada in a few years, Canada will receive a state of the art aircraft supported by world leading training and support.

We are also always looking to further expand our space presence in Canada. Airbus already supplies satellites, space systems and capabilities to the military, civil and commercial sectors in Canada. Globally, Airbus was the industry leader for commercial communications satellite orders in 2015 and is a leading prime contractor for end-to-end military satellite communication systems.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organisation or industry sector?

Innovation doesn’t have a passport, so it’s important that Canada considers solutions from a variety of companies, like Airbus, and not just those in Canada when looking at future projects. Open competition will get the best technology and solutions for Canadians.

The Synthetic Aperture Radar Data Continuity (SAR DC) program is an example of this. It is a radar system that will provide DND with cutting edge satellite capabilities in support of maritime surveillance and sovereignty projection.

It is very early in the program, but even at the mission concept phase, it’s important to take a global look at the technology that’s available. Doing so can allow Canada to leverage greater R&D investment and create opportunities for global companies like Airbus to work with Canadian partners.

What technologies, business models and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

New technology is only one part of innovation. Different approaches to how governments acquire own and operate equipment will be important as the government looks to expand and update capabilities.

Airbus Defence and Space has much to offer in this regard. It does more than just build planes and satellites; it also has a unique experience with Public Private Partnerships (PPP) on programs as complex as military communications systems. As the PPP industry partner with the UK on the Skynet system, Airbus owns and operates a hardened constellation of eight satellites and the associated ground network that provide all Beyond Line of Sight communications to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The PPP contract also allows other NATO and allied governments such as members of the Five Eyes countries to use the Skynet system to augment their existing services. This model might be something that Canada considers as it looks to programs to enhance polar satellite communications.

What’s your parting thought?

There’s a lot of Airbus in Canada. Airbus Group has had a major presence in Canada for 30 years. More than 2,000 Canadians work for Airbus, and 570 Canadian companies feed into its supply chain, from which Airbus purchases $1.2 billion in goods and services every year. We are working to see that grow by bringing, even more, Canada to Airbus.

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