Bernard Roux, CEO of «Thales» to «AL JUNDI » Our vision for the UAE is based on Industry, Innovation & Education

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‮‬«THALES»‮‬‭ ‬is one of the most important and largest global companies working in the field of digital innovations and deep technology‭ – ‬such as communication‭, ‬big data‭, ‬artificial intelligence‭, ‬electronic security‭, ‬and quantitative technologies‭, ‬and provides‭ ‬solutions‭, ‬services and products that support the business sector‭, ‬institutions and governments in the aviation‭, ‬space‭, ‬transportation‭, ‬digital identity‭, ‬security and defense sectors‭. ‬Al-Jundi Journal had an interview with Bernard Roux, ‬CEO of‭ ‬‮«‬Thales‮»‬‭, ‬where he spoke to Al Jundi about the company’s activities in the United Arab Emirates and the services it provides to the defense‭ ‬sector in various parts of the world‭.‬

Can we have an overview about Thales in general‭, ‬its activities in the region and the UAE in particular‭. ‬What are your most prominent products‭, ‬services‭, ‬and areas of activities in the UAE‭?‬

Thales is a trusted partner embedded in the local ecosystems of the UAE and beyond‭, ‬enabling customers to master critical decisive moments with full operational sovereignty‭. ‬As a long-term partner of the UAE armed forces‭, ‬we have developed our local presence in the country through numerous joint ventures and partnerships‭. ‬This has allowed us to expand the local footprint‭, ‬to be able to adapt and meet customer needs and‭, ‬crucially‭, ‬to develop talents through the means of high-level professional and academic‭ ‬training programs‭, ‬and ultimately build a future we can all trust‭.‬

Thales’‭ ‬vision in the UAE is‭ ‬“Industry‭, ‬Innovation and Education”‭. ‬Our objective is to bring security‭, ‬safety and growth‭, ‬whilst preserving state sovereignty‭, ‬providing sustainable economic development‭, ‬and fostering local talent‭. ‬Thales has a long-lasting relationship with the UAE‭, ‬providing cybersecurity‭, ‬defense‭, ‬space‭, ‬aerospace and transportation solutions to the country‭. ‬

Over the last year‭, ‬we are accelerating the ramp up of operations‭, ‬and have celebrated significant milestones in regards to centers of excellences announced during last IDEX 2021‭.‬This includes the inauguration of our radar centre of excellence in partnership with Tawazun‭, ‬with whom we also work with on an internship program‭, ‬Sustain and Enhance Emiratisation in Defence and Security‭ (‬SEEDS‭). ‬We believe that empowering local youth is vital to developing technologies that can be integrated into the industrial‭ ‬ecosystem‭, ‬creating value and economic impact‭. ‬To further support the country’s growth in industry‭, ‬innovation and education‭, ‬we have collaborated with DESC‭, ‬EDGE‭, ‬and Emirates on Aviation XLAB‭. ‬

Through our work with Hub 71‭, ‬we bring together expertise from the industrial world and the dynamism of Abu Dhabi’s global technology ecosystem‭, ‬with local knowledge from universities to develop new technologies‭. ‬We are closely collaborating‭ ‬with Mohamed Bin Zayed University‭, ‬Khalifa University for the Cybersecurity Hub‭, ‬UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific‭ ‬Research to form CERT‭, ‬Sorbonne University of Abu Dhabi for the creation of an industrial chair in the field of AI‭, ‬and Mohamed‭ ‬Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence‭ (‬MBZUAI‭) ‬to further develop strength in AI‭. ‬

What are the most important projects that the company has implemented in the UAE so far with the government or the private sector‭? ‬

As innovation is a key pillar of the UAE’s strategy‭, ‬Thales brings its expertise in the field of defense‭, ‬digital technologies and security to the region‭. ‬The main products include electronic systems for various types of platforms across all domains‭ (‬Land‭, ‬Sea‭, ‬Air‭, ‬Space‭), ‬such as sonars‭, ‬radars‭, ‬sensors‭, ‬optronics‭, ‬communication systems and other innovative embedded electronics‭, ‬as well as tailor-made solutions for training‭, ‬services and integration‭. ‬

As technologies are transforming daily lives through connectivity‭, ‬mobility‭, ‬digitalisation‭, ‬data-driven services‭, ‬Thales has a‭ ‬significant role to play in supporting the country in their civilian and defense infrastructure capabilities‭.‬

The Tawazun Economic Program is one of the key drivers for the defence and security sector‭. ‬In partnership with them‭, ‬we have created Thales Emarat Technologies‭ (‬TET‭) ‬the vector of our strategy integrated in the local Emirati industrial ecosystem to create‭ ‬sustainable value and economic impact‭. ‬Our goal is to empower the nation with unique and sovereign technology capabilities in line with the national vision‭. ‬By leveraging Thales’s unique technological‮ ‬portfolio to benefit the UAE‭, ‬TET fosters the diversification of the local‮ ‬economy‭.‬

Human capital is a scarce recourse‭, ‬and TET is committed to investing in it‮ ‬by hiring and training highly skilled local‮ ‬workforce‭. ‬To attract and retain young national talent‭, ‬we work closely with educational‮ ‬bodies‭, ‬colleges and universities‭. ‬This training model will have a positive‮ ‬knock-on effect on the country’s local talent pool‭, ‬supporting the future of the UAE economy and sovereignty‭.‬

The TET industry focus is on critical‮ ‬systems such as radar‭, ‬radio communications and a variety of defence aerospace technologies‭. ‬The company enables the localisation of specific maintenance and support operations‭, ‬improving response time and flexibility‭ ‬in customer care‭.‬

On the civil front‭, ‬Thales solutions facilitate the Dubai Metro‭, ‬the longest driverless metro network in the world‭. ‬The red and‭ ‬the green lines‭, ‬as well as the Route 2020‭ ‬are equipped with the SellTrac®‭ ‬signalling solution‭.‬

How do you rate your recent experience and participation in IDEX 2021‭, ‬and did it meet your expectations‭?‬

This was our sixth year at IDEX and NAVDEX‭, ‬and the show was bigger and better than before‭. ‬IDEX and NAVDEX are crucial events for the defence sector as they are the only international defence exhibitions and conferences in the MENA region that demonstrate‭ ‬the latest technology across land‭, ‬sea and air‭. ‬The leaders of the nation have displayed incredible strength in the face of a pandemic which took the world by storm‭. ‬The UAE’s strategy of taking early steps to contain the virus‭, ‬including rigorous testing‭ ‬and contact tracing of cases‭, ‬has been incredibly effective and praise-worthy‭. ‬The wise leadership’s efforts in managing the pandemic give us full confidence that the exhibition will be a safe space for all participants‭.‬

As a global leader in this defence and high technologies‭, ‬and as a long-term partner of the UAE armed forces‭, ‬we were as present‭ ‬as ever‭. ‬Thales’s participation gave us a chance to showcase our strategy of industry‭, ‬education and innovation‭, ‬in the country‭, ‬and is testament to our support of the UAE‭. ‬We also used this incredible opportunity to inaugurate the Radar Center of Excellence in partnership with Tawazun‭. ‬

What are the most needed/required defence solutions and technologies in the Middle East and Gulf region‭?‬

Digital technologies are key to maintaining tactical superiority and strategic independence‭. ‬Before we realize it‭, ‬military battles will be fought by a single unified combat machine composed of soldiers‭, ‬vehicles‭, ‬and sensors‭, ‬all operating in complete synergy and in real time‭. ‬Battlefield decision-making time will be reduced to seconds‭, ‬giving a critical on-the-ground tactical advantage over the adversary‭. ‬It’s called‭ ‬“collaborative combat”‭ ‬and it’s based on advanced technologies‭. ‬Warfare has always been collaborative‭, ‬but‭, ‬in the past‭, ‬military information was simply exchanged from one unit to another‭. ‬This means lost time‭. ‬By networking all the fighting vehicles and the sensors they carry‭, ‬military personnel can share information immediately‭, ‬reducing the process of detecting and neutralizing a threat to a matter of seconds‭.‬

With shorter response times‭, ‬greater precision and optimised firepower‭, ‬collaborative combat will combine new‭ ‬“vetronics”‭ (‬vehicle and electronics‭) ‬capabilities with the power of software radio to give armed forces the edge‭ ‬—‭ ‬even when the adversary is numerically superior and has better knowledge of the terrain‭. ‬Collaborative combat means going from‭ ‬commands based on reasoning to commands based on reflexes that rely on options analysed by artificial intelligence‭.‬

The increasing complexity of the landscape means commanders need the clearest picture possible‭ ‬–‭ ‬and they need to know all their options‭. ‬So‭, ‬the next generation of command and control systems is being built around ergonomic‭ ‬human-computer interfaces to accelerate decision making‭. ‬Rather than simply reacting to attacks‭, ‬commanders will be able to anticipate them instead‭.‬‮ ‬

The Internet of Things will connect all the players on the battlefield‭. ‬Big Data will gather data from battlefield action‭, ‬analyze it‭, ‬and then store it in the Cloud‭. ‬Cyber Protection will provide the cyber solutions such as the sensors and firewalls necessary to detect abnormalities and to store data safely‭. ‬Artificial Intelligence will provide algorithms for an automatic merger of all data to support the decision making process‭.‬

Industry 4.0‭ ‬technologies make collaborative combat possible through sharing and applying vast amounts of information‭, ‬instantaneously making sense of what they mean‭, ‬allow to anticipate and offering strategic choices for engagement‭. ‬Artificial Intelligence‭, ‬Data Analytics‭, ‬Connectivity and Cybersecurity are making it all possible‭; ‬taken together‭, ‬they make up an‭ ‬‘Internet of air combat’‭ ‬where critical information can be shared and applied continuously‭.‬

By‭: ‬Razi Ezzeddine Al-Hedmi

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