Every July for the past four years, hundreds of aerospace, defence and security (ADS) industry representatives have gathered in Calgary, Alberta for WestDef, Western Canada’s premier defence and security conference.

In a province best known for oil and gas, it is often a surprise to learn that Alberta also has an ADS industry. But it shouldn’t be. Alberta is home to four of the most important military bases in Canada: Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton is home to the headquarters of both Land Force Western Area and Joint Task Force West; 4 Wing Cold Lake is the Canadian premier fighter aircraft training facility; CFB Wainwright is the Canadian Army’s training centre for excellence; and CFB Suffield is the largest military training area in the Commonwealth.

In addition to the bases, other significant military presence in eastern Alberta includes the British Army Training Unit (BATUS) located at Suffield; Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) at Suffield; and the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment at Cold Lake. So it should be no surprise that WestDef was created for industry by industry and has been supported by the innovative and resourceful individuals that work in the sector across Western Canada.

Since the beginning, the event tag line has been “Innovative Service, High Technology, Cost-Effective Solution, One Location.” With two and a half days of jam-packed speaker sessions, keynotes, networking events, and a B2B marketplace, all while showcasing some of the region’s most innovative companies, WestDef has become a “must attend” event. It has attracted attention globally, with attendees to past conferences from destinations such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia and the United States. And because it takes place during the world famous Calgary Stampede, delegates even have an opportunity to take in an evening of traditional western hospitality.

The Western Canadian Defence Industries Association (WCDIA) is the regional industry association responsible for WestDef. With a mandate to showcase industry opportunities, capabilities and technological expertise of Western Canadian defence contractors, the WCDIA continues to focus on ways to connect and engage at both a local and national level.

When it comes to expertise and a passion and drive for doing business, companies across the west have a limitless supply. Whether it’s a CNC machining company, an information technology company, or a developer of micro- and nano-technologies, the applications in the aerospace, defence and security sector are vast. The association proudly represents the industry across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where companies of all sizes work together to build innovative technologies supporting ADS applications and platforms, while employing thousands and generating millions of dollars to the Canadian economy.

British Columbia boasts expertise in remote sensing, satellite communications, complex robotics, 3D simulation technology, and advanced aerospace systems and subsystems.

Alberta has a growing and dynamic defence sector that is highly regarded for its capabilities, especially in five key sub-sectors: robotics and unmanned vehicle systems; defence electronics; space sciences, geomatics, and navigation systems; maintenance, repair, and overhaul; and logistic support to the military.

Saskatchewan is a showcase for satellite-based communication system products and services for aerospace and defence industries in Canada and around the world. It is also home to numerous companies offering aviation engineering and manufacturing solutions.

Manitoba is home to the largest aerospace sector in Western Canada and is also home to 23 established regional and national firms that specialize in tool and dye making, precision sheet metal fabrication, plating and coating and electronics.

WCDIA members, along with the volunteer Board of Directors, work together to bring opportunities to association members. With additional support by Western Economic Diversification and the government of Alberta, events and sessions are designed to attract the right people, with the right information, at the right time.

Past attendees have had the opportunity to listen to provincial premiers, members of Parliament and federal ministers such as the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, and Associate Minister of National Defence.

WestDef always has leaders of industry present from companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Meggitt, General Dynamics, Boeing, Thales Canada, General Atomics and GE Military Systems Canada to speak on issues and opportunities.

And representatives from the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, to the Chief of Staff, Materiel, Chief of Staff Land Forces Western Area, and the Director General Aerospace Equipment Program Management have shared perspectives on activities related to the Canadian military.

In addition to session speakers, past attendees have had the opportunity to participate in industry tours through organizations such as Raytheon Canada Support Services, Harris Canada Systems, General Dynamics Canada, Bell Helicopters and Viking where they viewed weapons systems, avionics support systems, command and control solutions, and an aircraft manufacturing facility.

WestDef is where corporate executives, policymakers, investors, entrepreneurs, innovators and industry thought-leaders gather to examine trends, develop innovation strategies, and make deals happen.
Attendees make high-level contacts, get exclusive insights into opportunities and participate in thought-provoking discussions. WestDef has become a place to meet and connect. It is the only conference of its kind in Canada for aerospace, defence and security.

In an industry that is now faced with issues surrounding procurement, where Canadian programs have all been affected, reduced, delayed or cut, and where defence spending is declining due in part to reduced armed conflict, how are companies to respond?

To realize growth in a declining government spending environment, companies will have to take steps necessary to cut costs to maintain acceptable financial performance, develop an ability to focus on lifecycle cost reduction and business model transformation, and explore potential expansion or an increase of sales into foreign markets.

These issues are not unique and are challenges faced by companies of all sizes and scale. For the industry to continue to be successful and innovative, companies will have to come together and collectively solve these problems. In addition to continuing to deliver on existing contracts, companies will have to develop new products and technologies to address new threat environments, develop next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies, and look to government programs and contract opportunities.

Many of these programs and opportunities, innovations and technologies will be discussed and presented at WestDef 2014, where the theme, Creating Innovative Opportunities in a Post Afghanistan World, will provide a forum to explore critical issues currently facing the ADS sector in Canada, both now and into the future.

For more information on WestDef 2014 or the Western Canadian Defence Industries Association (WCDIA), please visit www.westdef.com or www.wcdia.com.
Denean Tomlin is the president & COO of WaVv Business Development and the co-executive director of WestsDef.