Faisal Al Bannai, CEO & Managing Director of EDGE.
Faisal Al Bannai, CEO & Managing Director of EDGE.

EDGE: A New Landscape for the Defence Industry in the Middle East

Recently, EDGE was ranked among the top 25 military suppliers in the world by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a think tank that specialises in data analysis of military expenditure and arms trade among other peace and security-related matters.

EDGE Group was established in November 2019 consolidating more than 25 entities, from Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC), Emirates Advanced Investments Group (EAIG), Tawazun Holding, and other independent organisations. The “New Defence Order. Strategy” journal talked to Faisal Al Bannai, CEO & Managing Director of EDGE.

-What were the most significant milestones in EDGE’s first year?

As an advanced technology group established to develop disruptive solutions for defence and beyond, EDGE was created to enable a more secure future, in an era where hybrid warfare is changing the rules of engagement.

Our mandate has been to move faster, to further align the industry and agree on our future development needs. We have created our product development roadmap, and have already signed off on multiple categories for numerous programmes. EDGE is leveraging the best of the public and private sectors to build on the UAE’s efforts in developing domestic industrial defence manufacturing capabilities. We are now positioned as the UAE’s anchor player, and have strengthened our relationships with key clients to be able to attract resources and talent to disrupt the industry.

Our first year has also been focused on autonomous capabilities, smart weapons and electronic warfare. To illustrate – at the upcoming International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 2021) and Naval Defence & Maritime Security Exhibition (NAVDEX 2021), we will be announcing 5+ autonomous / unmanned products, 5+ in the smart weapons category, and 3+ within electronic warfare, among others.

-In your opinion, what are the factors that have brought EDGE to be among top global 25 arms manufacturers in such a record time?

This is the first time that a Middle East company has ever been named among the biggest defence original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and security exporters, which is a testament to the vision of our country’s leadership and our collective accomplishments and achievements across the Group.

Through converging commercial market innovations with military capabilities, EDGE is promoting fast, precise decision-making, while redefining advanced technology synergies. The consolidation of all sovereign defence entities under EDGE Group has enabled us to collaborate between the subsidiary companies, focus on collaborative R&D efforts, upgrade our own capabilities more consistently, and progress together efficiently and at speed – to deliver for our key clients and markets.  

What are the challenges that the arms and defence industry face today, and do you focus on specialist military products or on dual-use technologies?

A number of factors have influenced the development of the defence industries in the Middle East, not limited to the dependence on imports, national infrastructure and resources. Historically, the global defence industry has taken time to roll out products, but with the creation of EDGE, we are seeking to be the catalyst for change as an advanced technology group for defence and beyond.With a key focus on emerging technologies, our first priority is meeting military needs – though anticipate that many of these can then be adapted for dual use. We will seek to diversify these breakthroughs to benefit other industries. Our goal is to be a global defence contractor with an overall mission to bring innovative technologies and services to market with greater speed and efficiency.

-What are the pillars promoting defence and military industry of the UAE?

The UAE has historically been renowned to be an importer of defence and military products, yet it is now looking to move away from being a buyer and become a player that is investing, collaborating and selling. EDGE prides itself on its local and international reputation, and the value that it brings to the UAE Armed Forces, law enforcement agencies and security forces – as well as the partnerships it has established with defence and security contractors around the world. With a strong customer base in the UAE, we are able to leverage our position locally to market ourselves to regional and international Armed Forces, given our products mission-proven capabilities. Our collaborations with international vendors speak for themselves too – with many being relationships we have fostered and built on for decades.

-How does EDGE benefit from the Emirati and foreign workforce in its work?

The UAE is renowned for its innovation leadership and for consistently being ranked number one in the Arab world for innovation, digital competitiveness and foreign direct investment. With the UAE being home to over 200 nationalities, EDGE is a magnet for expertise and exceptional talent, attracting the brightest minds locally and from around the world. We are focused on leadership and in creating competitiveness in academic disciplines in order to nurture the next generation of agile, critical thinkers, explorers and engineers. Our aim is to attract the right talent and profiles for our customers and partners, in line with our product development roadmap.

– How do the five core clusters of EDGE operate?

With five core clusters: Platforms & Systems, Missiles & Weapons, Cyber Defence, Electronic Warfare & Intelligence, and Mission Support – EDGE is able to offer the complete lifecycle of products and services to the end-user, from design and manufacturing, to maintenance, repair and overhaul services. Each of our respective clusters and entities complement one another, and have a clear export strategy in place to ensure that as a group, we work towards enabling a secure future. 

-What does EDGE have to present at IDEX and NAVDEX 2021, will you reveal any new technologies or products?

EDGE Group is the official Strategic Partner of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 2021) and the Naval Defence and Maritime Security Exhibition (NAVDEX 2021). The platform will enable us to engage with new prospects and existing partners alike, creating business opportunities to mutual benefit. We look forward to launching over 15 products and exhibiting more than 50 of our core capabilities, in what will be a critical platform to showcase our latest advancements in technologies for defence and beyond. EDGE Group has a number of platforms that it is set to unveil and launch at IDEX and NAVDEX 2021 – so please do watch this space.

-Which markets have the most potential for EDGE’s products and services?

EDGE is currently working with multiple partners and customers in varied industries in the region and across the globe, and will continue to strengthen these relationships in shaping an advanced technology ecosystem for defence and beyond. We partner with entities big or small, startup or established, local or global – and are redefining advanced technology synergies. Our core markets include Asia, Middle East and North Africa. We have good relations with the region’s official defence stakeholders, and are always open to synergies that advance our export objectives.

Entities within EDGE have of course forayed into promising markets. As an example, NIMR, a leading manufacturer of combat-proven wheeled military vehicles has witnessed significant interest for its cutting-edge products. The company entered into a joint venture with the Algerian Ministry of Defence to manufacture the NIMR vehicle range in Algeria, and is also focusing on expanding its export markets to Eastern Europe, among other regions.

-How does EDGE view its prospects in the arms market and what can you tell us about your partnerships?

EDGE is a strategic partner for customers, vendors and countries, helping to secure nations with a wide spectrum of disruptive products and services at world-class standards. It places a strong focus on joint development and collaboration, and like with most businesses is open to propositions for consideration. We are always focused on outcomes and open to work with different partners for the wider benefit of our customers, who remain our core priority. We have three types of partners:

  1. General vendors that sell EDGE products. These are valued transactional relationships.
  2. Commercial partners that also sell products, but go further, helping with IP to accelerate sovereign capabilities in key technology stacks.
  3. And strategic partners that sell products, transfer IP in vital technology stacks, and also buy products and services from EDGE.
-Where do you see Emirati arms and defence industry in five years?

Five years from now, EDGE will be known as a company that converges commercial market innovations with military capabilities, to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies – delivering products and services at speed, with a growing global export footprint.

NDOS

Interviewed by: Reem Mohamed
©”New Defence Order. Strategy” 2021

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