Home > Strategic Analysis > IDET 2013: a lukewarm assessment

IDET 2013: a lukewarm assessment

Published : 26 May 2013
995 words in that article

The 2013 edition of the Czech Armament exhibition closed on Friday 24th may in Brno (Moravia) and it’s time to make a first assessment. Official figures are quite reasonable at first sight for a small exhibition in Central Europe:

Comparing with the last 2011 edition, which was already heavily struck by the economic crisis, there is a substantial drop either within the exhibitors or the visitors: 369 exhibitors for IDET 2011 and 555 exhibitors coming from 27 countries for both IDET and PYROS/ISET fairs. Talking about visitors, almost 31 000 visitors came to Brno exhibition Center in 2011.

People explain this drop because of the difficult global economic situation that is driving companies to be more selective for their participation to such events. This year they appeared to prefer to massively participate to the Turkish armament exhibition IDEF, which was organized in Istanbul two weeks ago. This year, the IDEF registered a record participation with 794 exhibitors coming from 52 countries.

Unfortunately, reality is darker

Effectively, I have no intention to start an argument about the announced figures but the situation I saw personally in Brno is quite different from the above-mentioned figures.

In the pavilion P which was dedicated to IDET, I counted only 152 exhibitors coming from 20 different countries instead of the 300 ones announced by the Defense Ministry. And instead of 399 exhibitors in both IDET and PYROS/ISET, I saw only 257 stands.

So why is there such a big difference? The reason is quite simple: many companies were representing the interests of other firms on their own stand. For example, Omnipol was representing also 5 other companies, including Airbus Military, and PRAMACOM represented 7 companies, including SAGEM and THALES Communications. Those represented companies were 150 and this number, together with the 152 physically present, explains the 300 companies mentioned. But is it fair to consider the represented companies as real exhibitors?

Having a look on the type of companies which were physically in Brno, we see that about 20% of the stands (28 in 152) were not held by companies but by other actors: Defense Ministries, associations of veterans, universities, and military models fans… I don’t say they have no legitimacy to be there, they are obviously welcome on the site but their ratio is of concern.

Because it means that only 124 stands were occupied by Defense industry companies, 80 of which were from Czech origin. This Czech massive presence is not abnormal but the scattering of the origin of the foreign companies is striking: 44 companies coming from 19 different countries. Excepted MBDA and SAAB, which have some immediate commercial interests in the Czech Republic, the other big Defense companies were absent. And except Poland, which had 13 stands, the other countries were represented usually by 1, 2, rarely 3 companies. And most of the time they were small or medium enterprises.

Is there a future for IDET?

In 2011, organizers regrouped IDET and PYROS/ISET in order to get a bigger representation and, thus doing, obtain more visitors. Unfortunately, the cumulated effects of the economic crisis and of the terrifying thinness of the Defense budgets in Central Europe (excepted in Poland that is maintaining a ratio of 2% of the GDP) have a big impact on the participation of the foreign companies. Those don’t see any interest in participating to an exhibition where there is very little chance to get a reasonable return on investment. Why showing some products when nobody will buy them?

Does that mean that IDET is condemned? That’s not sure but without evolution of the concept, the future is quite uncertain.
Effectively, Central Europe, despite the thinness of its Defense budgets, is quite prolific in organizing armament exhibitions:

  • MSPO Kielce (Poland) takes place every year in September,
  • IDET Brno (Czech Republic) is organized every odd year,
  • IDEB Bratislava (Slovakia) is the alternate to IDET every even year,
  • The “Future soldier” exhibition takes place in Prague every even year in November,
  • C+D Budapest (Hungary) is organized every odd year in November.

The defense industry of those countries needs such a showcase to show their products. But it’s not sure that this policy of scattering the efforts still has a future.

I did not choose those countries by chance. They are forming the Višegrad countries (V4) that are engaged for years in a mutual cooperation, even in the defense field. Unfortunately, except a V4 EU Battle group which should be operational by 2016, concrete projects are rare.

Creating a V4 Armament Exhibition would be a nice challenge. Organized once a year, alternatively in one of the Višegrad countries, this Fair would merge all the existing exhibitions and offer a suitable audience to the V4 Defense industry. There would be a bigger chance to see every time new materials and foreign companies, less solicited, would come back to Central Europe. And that would avoid the depressing vision of exhibition centers half empty.

But that would suppose courage and a vision beyond the national borders which are currently lacking in Central Europe. That’s a pity!!

But everything is not black. This year, we can hail the remarkable initiative of the Czechoslovak Association of Legionnaires (CSoL), one of the two biggest Czech associations of veterans, who displayed a replica of wagons used by Czechoslovak legionnaires in the famous Siberian Anabasis during First World War. This “Train legionnaire” (Legiovlak in Czech) takes place within the bigger project “Legie 100”, which will celebrate between 2014 and 2018 the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Czechoslovak legions who fought for freedom in France, Russia and Italy. The train is a living exhibition of the history of those Legionnaires and should travel throughout the Czech and Slovak territories. Congratulations, the result is wonderful!!!