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As Colombia prepares for the next iteration of Expodefensa, the international Defence and security fair, Tecnologia Militar correspondent Erich Saumeth Cadavid had occasion to interview Dr Hilda López, Director of Science, Technology and Innovation in the Colombian Ministry of Defence.

The Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation is part of the Vice-Ministry of Defence for the Social and Business Group of Defence (GSED). Expodefensa – which will take place 2-4 December in Bogotá’s International Business and Exhibition Centre (Corferias) – is jointly organised by the Vice Ministry of Defence, Coreferias and COGES (the organisers of Eurosatory), a strategic ally who has had personnel embedded in Bogotá specifically to support Expodefensa 2019 since March.

As head of the Directorate, Dr López is responsible for promotion of the fair at the international level as well as for the presentation of the latest Colombian technological developments. Many of these result from intensive efforts by companies assigned to the GSED, including Indumil, Codaltec, CIAC and Cotecmar, among others. Their products and solutions already serve in the Colombian armed forces, as well as those of several other regional powers. TM was able to discuss news and expectations surrounding the upcoming event at some length with Dr López.

Tecnologia Militar (TM): Expodefensa 2019 is fast approaching: you and your team must be excited?

Dr López (HL): Indeed! Expodefensa 2019, our international defence fair, is an important challenge for the defence sector as such; because it is our (Colombia/Latin America’s) window to the region and the world - to show all the advances in science, technology and innovation that our armed forces have.

Also, because it is an opportunity for new business - and to add value. Because we manage the agendas of visitors, companies and official delegates who attend our fair and tailor these precisely to their interests in learning about specific new technologies and capabilities.

We at Expodefensa help these companies to establish contact with these delegates from various countries, and to be able to offer solutions for the requirements of their product portfolios.

TM: What news is there for the forthcoming edition of Expodefensa?

HL: Many advances and changes occur in science, technology and innovation over a two-year period. Technological developments grow, mature, die, and new ideas are born.

For this edition of Expodefensa, our commitment is to show that we (Colombians) have an advanced defence-industrial sector, showcasing our strategic capabilities. In addition to the projects of interest that we have developed with the armed forces, we are also increasing the number of exhibitors, visitors and - of course - exhibition area. Due to the strategic position of the fair and its timing, Expodefensa has become a benchmark for the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean, managing to engage technology and companies. Something very important, also, is that everything ordered at Expodefensa 2019 goes into the 2020 budget, so companies have to invest.

TM: Can you tell us about advances in science and technology management?

HL: As a defence sector, we believe in the capabilities of our armed forces and our personnel, supporting them and investing capital, technology and resources in the design and development of unmanned aerial systems and remotely operated vehicles (UAS/ROV), notably, our own development that we call QUIMBAYA, which will – without a doubt – be a significant highlight of Expodefensa.

TM: What fresh challenges and development does management face?

HL: Additionally, we have an interest in optronics systems, as well as in developing the maintenance capabilities of the aeronautical sector. This includes great interest in the design and development of micro-drones, which are very useful in performing highly specialised operation. We want to continue advancing in the areas of simulation, training, and radar systems, with the goal of being able to become a training centre, turning Colombia into a reference in education for the defence sector.

TM: What are your expectations?

HL: We hope to match our achievements in past exhibitions: 270 exhibitors from 34 countries, with an area of more than 10,500 square meters. In addition, we anticipate receiving more than 203 official delegations from 27 countries, and having the opportunity to host more than 2,500 members of the Colombian armed forces, more than 1,200 professionals from the foreign defence sector and more than 13,000 citizens.

TM: Who visits Expodefensa?

HL: The main representatives of the security and defence industry, contractors and multi-national industrialists, subcontractors to the defence sector responsible for maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) activities, new companies and small/medium-sized enterprises (SME), suppliers to our armed forces and those responsible for test and evaluation centres and research agencies.

What is on show at Expodefensa is unique: those who attend will not have participated in similar events. For those who are exhibiting products and solutions at Expodefensa, they will be doing so to an audience of decision-makers from Colombia and across the entire region.

TM: Thank you, Dr López.

Dr López with the QUIMBAYA drone. (All photos: Erich Saumeth Cadavid)

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