"The World is Switching from Defense to HLS"

Exclusive interview with Ofer Sachs, CEO of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, in preparation for the major international HLS conference to be held in Tel-Aviv next week

"The World is Switching from Defense to HLS"

Ofer Sachs (Photo: Meir Azulay)

Last October, the International Olympic Committee announced that they had selected a Israeli Company, ISDS, as security integrators for the Olympic Games in Rio de-Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.

This significant announcement followed years of activity promoting Israeli exports in the field of HLS by the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute.

"The HLS field was identified by the Israel Export Institute as a growth engine for Israeli exports," says Ofer Sachs, CEO of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute, to Israel Defense in an exclusive interview. "We realized a few years ago that it is a field of activity that offers added value and significant advantages to the Israeli eco-system.

"The world is gradually becoming multidisciplinary," says Sachs. "The clearly-defined boundaries of the traditional industry – be it the software industry, the communication industry or the electronic media industry – are becoming increasingly blurred. The fact that we can establish very rapid associations between one content world and another and cope with a need through a range of solutions is one of our strengths, and it is highly relevant in the various fields of the HLS world."

According to Sachs, who had previously served in senior positions in the Ministry of Agriculture, the person who led the process of setting HLS as a growth engine was Lior Konitzki, Vice Director General of the Israel Export Institute. The interview with Ofer Sachs was conducted in preparation for the major international HLS conference to be held in Israel for the third time between November 9-12, 2014, under the media auspices of Jane's Information Group and Israel Defense.

"This conference changes with the global challenges and with our ability to establish the required technological and conceptual associations," says Sachs. "We are looking at a world where less defense is being purchased while the focus shifts to HLS. We are looking at the developed world as well as at the developing world. At the end of the day, the objective is to get the people from overseas to attend the conference and show them the resources that we have over here. We have seen the conference evolving over the years and we realize there is a growing demand, with regard to participants from all over the world as well as with regard to the capabilities showcased at the conference.

"The conference will last two days and is to include an exhibition. The discourse that takes place in the symposium halls reflects what the exhibition showcases. This time, the conference will concentrate on four primary issues: security for critical infrastructures, prevention of terrorism, cyber warfare and preparing for emergencies."

Some of the leading figures at the conference will be conference president Avi Dichter (formerly the Head of ISA and Minister of Public Security), Shmuel Zakai (CEO of Ben-Gurion Airport), Evyatar Matanya (Head of the National Cyber Bureau at the Prime Minister's Office), Yiftach Ron-Tal (Chairman of the Board of the Israel Electric Corporation) and other prominent figures. Numerous speakers and a parade of government ministers will highlight the first morning of the conference, including the Minister of Economics, Minister of Defense and Minister of Public Security. Prominent speakers will arrive from overseas to attend and speak at the conference – the Chief of the Chicago Police Department, the Vice President of Motorola International, Lockheed Martin's Head of Technologies, the CEO of the Atlanta International Airport, the official in charge of security at the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016, the Mayor of Mexico City and many others.

"The exhibition alongside the conference will showcase numerous HLS technologies, including the masterpiece of Israeli technology – the Iron Dome rocket interception system developed cooperatively by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elta, the division of IAI that specializes in Radar systems."

What attracts people to arrive at such a conference in Israel, of all places?

"The fact that we present many proven technologies. Israel is a global cyber warfare superpower, and that is a fact. Many young cyber companies will attend the conference – with fewer mature companies from this field.

"Generally, when you say that the conference is held in Israel, it attracts people to arrive, as throughout the world they understand that this country stands at the cutting edge of technology."

At the HLS conference two years ago, you presented an annual growth projection for the HLS market that was a double figure. Is this forecast still valid?

"Two years is a somewhat short perspective, but what we have seen very clearly, and the industries have been voting with their feet – is that there is less expenditure on defense and more on HLS. You can see that all of the major corporations are present in the HLS worlds, too, including Israel's major defense industries, where specific HLS divisions have been established."

What field of the HLS world has registered the most significant market growth? Was it software, the physical obstacle world or possibly the world of platforms, like UAVs?

"First and foremost – the software world, including all of its derivatives. The field of UAVs for civilian applications, on the other hand, has failed to live up to the expectations, as regulation is problematic."

What about the use of UAVs for border defense purposes?

"That (particular field) has grown, but UAVs for firefighting, or UAVs for other civilian functions – these applications have been less successful. We have seen unmanned vehicles used for protecting infrastructures, but as stated, it is a field that has not grown as expected in those years."

In the past, you placed the emphasis on mega-events. Has this proven itself?

"Yes. Take Brazil for example. Beyond that, there is still a lot of interest in security for mega-events in the classic markets of Europe and North America."

In terms of the global market, what does the breakdown look like?

"In a global breakdown, Europe and North America are down, the HLS world in South-East Asia is up and growing, and in Latin America it is growing, but by very little.

"Looking at South-East Asia, South Korea, for example, and other countries continue to be very important clients. At the same time, there are companies that try to cope with the highly complex challenge of Africa, where the market is still in its infancy. There have been some success stories in Africa, and it is no longer just companies selling infrastructures, but even the software companies are already there. Is the field of financial technologies a part of the HLS world? In my opinion, yes. But until the market segment of Africa becomes significant – there is still a long way to go."

Do you encourage G2G (Government-to-Government) transactions or mainly private sector activity?

"Definitely, and the fact that 15 government ministers, dozens of police chiefs and even the UN chief procurement officer are all arriving for the conference demonstrates this fact. We provide a bridge for the industries. Representatives of the Japanese parliament are coming to visit the exhibition at the conference. In Israel, we have already started working opposite the Japanese Olympic Committee in preparation for the Olympic Games of 2020. We are expanding the canvas to cover many other aspects – cellular technologies, for example. For Japan, of all places, the G2G aspect is very important. The (Israel) Ministry of Economics and Ministry of Foreign Affairs provide assistance for these activities."

Are you aware of more competition on the part of major western corporations whose domestic markets are shrinking?

"Yes, especially after the procurement budgets of the Americans and NATO, following the pullout from Afghanistan and Iraq, have gradually decreased. There is no doubt that the giant corporations, are now competing even over transactions of just a few millions. Nevertheless, Israeli companies manage to excel. Take the border fence between Mexico and the USA, for example, where Elbit Systems has been extremely successful. Their sensors are on that fence. Of dozens of internati succeeded in providing a holistic solution.

"We will also showcase at the conference technological solutions and concepts for coping with natural disasters and the participants will visit the Ben-Gurion Airport and learn about security there.

"Generally, we look at the challenges of the coming years, with regard to the budget and technology aspects, from the perspective of the companies providing the solutions as well as from the perspective of the clients." 

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