Building Confidence Amidst Technology Disruption
29 Oct 2021

After two successful runs, the Singapore Defence Technology Summit (Tech Summit) returned for yet another year, bringing together a record number of global thought leaders to expound and collaborate in the development of defence and security capabilities.

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With the theme ‘Building Confidence Amidst Technology Disruption’, the third Tech Summit was the first time the event took place in a hybrid format, bringing together close to 800 participants from 23 countries – the highest number yet! – across governments, commercial sectors, think tanks and academia.

In his welcome address, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen urged participants to put a timely focus on advances in the digital domain as these technologies have great potential for destruction and disruption, which will pave the way for the world of tomorrow.

He said: “Just as in the kinetic world, the digital domain must move from an unfettered, no rules-based, ‘who dares, wins’ architecture to one that prevents, at the very least, high-stakes catastrophes and disruption to civilian life.”

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This was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat in his keynote address, where he stressed that the defence sector must also build more adaptive capacity to deal with disruptive tech and counter asymmetric threats.

He added: “All nations face common threats that can severely disrupt lives and livelihoods – such as pandemics, climate change, and terrorist attacks. To address these threats, we should build greater trust and confidence, and strengthen partnerships.”

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Marking a first at the Tech Summit, The Honorable Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering from the US Department of Defense, was beamed in all the way from Washington, D.C. and made a real-time holographic appearance for a one-on-one dialogue session. Sharing her strategies in developing capabilities to help build the foundation for a future-ready workforce, she highlighted the need for a change in mindsets and development processes to stay ahead of the latest tech innovations to combat possible disruptions.

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Her sentiments were echoed throughout the plenary sessions, where conversations surrounding the summit’s theme deepened and the panellists – comprising 23 government officials, chief executive officers and tech leaders – delved into a range of issues such as the need to be more agile and adaptive to harness new technologies and enable continuous enhancements.

They also underscored the importance of building an ecosystem of collaboration with the academia and industry experts, and concurred that competition is an intrinsic factor of innovation. As such, they encouraged the preservation of constructive competition even while exchanging ideas and pursuing common interests together as partners.

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Beyond the main programme, participants were also invited to network and explore virtual exhibition booths which showcased innovative tech solutions across diverse domains, including the internet-of-things, digitalisation and cybersecurity.

There was also a myriad of tech sharing and demo sessions on topics such as deception techniques and 5G networks.

To pique the younger generation’s interest in science and technology, over 160 students from 30 schools had the opportunity to participate and listen to the technology conversations that took place at the summit. Students were also able to enjoy the Tech Summit through the Amazon Web Services DeepRacer League Workshop held on the sidelines. Taking place from 8 to 10 October 2021, over 70 students learnt, built and trained virtual race cars to gain fresh insights into the world of reinforcement learning and other advanced technologies.

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With the conclusion of this year’s hybrid edition, delegates and participants are already looking forward to the next Tech Summit.

Kusti Salm, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence (Republic of Estonia), shared that the “Tech Summit has been established as one of the most prominent technology conferences”. He added: “The plenary sessions were insightful and featured a line-up of great speakers, allowing us to examine global issues.”

Dr Hao Li, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Pinscreen, said: “One thing that stood out for me was that there was a clear message about why these conversations are so important – conversations on the idea of change, and how people have to break from linear processes. It is important to establish ways for organisations to collaborate together, instead of competing for talents.”

“The fact that we’ve had the opportunity to come together in a structured way to share ideas is icing on the cake. This has been a great experience!” added Terence Gordon Emmert, Acting Director of Defense Research & Engineering for Advanced Capabilities, US Department of Defense.