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The 2020 edition of the EURONAVAL exhibition will be held in Paris-Le Bourget from 20 – 23 October 2020. ESD was granted an exclusive interview with Hugues d’Argentré, Director of SOGENA, which organises EURONAVAL. In this interview,
Mr d’Argentré addresses the most pressing topics for would-be exhibitors and visitors to EURONAVAL 2020.

Photo: SOGENA / EURONAVAL

ESD: How many exhibitors from how many countries do you expect, and what will be the particular highlights of the event?
d’Argentré: Due to the current global health crisis, EURONAVAL 2020 will be a unique event. The exhibition will be the first and only event of its magnitude in 2020 dedicated to naval defence after the COVID-19 crisis. The aim of pushing ahead with the event against all odds is, of course, to support the entire naval sector and the jobs it provides, not only at national level, but also at European and global levels. This bold and risky choice was made with the aim of assuring the resilience of our industry and to demonstrate our entrepreneurial and winning spirit, which must remain despite the pandemic.

At present, we do not know how many exhibitors will attend in October. Up until the last few days, our sales team were beating stand reservations taken this time two years ago for the 2018 edition of the exhibition. We are entering a period of uncertainty due to August and latest developments in the COVID-19 crisis. The health crisis remains serious for some countries, but we will do all we can to enable as many people as possible to take part in this year’s event, which is set to be exceptional in several respects.

This year sees the inauguration of the Cyber Naval Hub dedicated to cybersecurity and cyber defence. Organised in partnership with Compagnie Européenne d’Intelligence Stratégique (CEIS), which also organises the International Cybersecurity Forum (FIC) each year, the Cyber Naval Hub will welcome manufacturers, administrations, and research institutions who will have the opportunity to exhibit their innovative solutions and discuss issues concerning the protection of combat systems on vessels and onshore facilities with the entire cyber and naval ecosystem.

We are also happy to bring back two zones created for EURONAVAL 2018 which received very positive feedback from our visitors:

First, SEAnnovation, a hub welcoming around thirty French and foreign start-ups, selected following a call for applications and representative of the diversity of naval defence and maritime security. During French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the exhibition in 2018, he expressed particular interest in SEAnnovation and took the time to speak with several start-ups.

Second, the Navire des Métiers, a zone dedicated to training, professions, and jobs in the naval sector. Launched in 2018 at EURONAVAL in cooperation with GICAN (Groupement des Industries Navales – French Marine Industry Group) and the Campus des Industries Navales, the Navire des métiers was inaugurated by the Minister of National Education and Youth, Jean-Michel Blanquer.

ESD: What will be the subjects addressed in the conference on 19 October?
d’Argentré: EURONAVAL’s large inaugural conference that normally takes place in Paris on Monday, the day before the exhibition, was a big success in 2018 with over 600 attendees, cannot take place this year. We have made the decision to replace it with a series of three ‘round table web conferences’ that will be recorded and made available online across three sessions, in the three weeks before the exhibition opens. They will be led by the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique – Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS). The Chief of the French Naval Staff, the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency (DGA), and the President of GICAN and EURONAVAL will also be contributing to the web conferences. These can be viewed live or on-repeat via the website www.euronaval.fr. The topics, dates and times of the three web conferences will be widely published in September. (ed. check www.euro-sd.com for more details and links).

ESD: To what extent do the French Government and the French Navy support EURONAVAL 2020? Are the Government and the French Navy inviting delegations on their own?
d’Argentré: Prior to making the difficult decision to go ahead with the exhibition, we obtained formal backing from the Ministry for the Armed Forces and the DGA. We know we can count on the Ministry’s significant political, human and logistical support once again this year. As with each year, official invitations for foreign delegations have been signed by the Minister, the CEMA, the DGA or the CEMM. EURONAVAL is sponsored by the Minster of the Armed Forces, who is doing the honour of opening the exhibition for us, and we continue to work closely and in great confidence with all directorates concerned in the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

ESD: Obviously, this year’s exhibition and conference will be affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Do visitors and delegation from for example the Americas, Asia and Africa have to expect to be taken in quarantine?
d’Argentré: At this point in time, it is too early to confirm the potential implementation of a two-week or other period of quarantine. The situation is changing weekly and we are constantly adapting our health protocols in response to the pandemic and the requirements of health authorities. All health rules in force will be implemented at the exhibition. It goes without saying that we hope the situation develops favourably and enables foreign exhibitors and visitors to attend EURONAVAL in October in complete safety and with full peace of mind.

ESD: So, how many delegations and from which countries do you expect them?
d’Argentré: In the current context, it is difficult to give an accurate number of delegations who will attend. Over 150 delegations have received an invitation for the exhibition throughout the course of July. We hope they will understand the benefit of attending the exhibition for the future of their navies and that they will be able to come. We expect fewer attendees compared to EURONAVAL 2018, but those who are able to come will be very happy with what awaits them. In normal circumstances, we would have a good idea of the number of delegations due to attend by mid-September. This year, we will most likely have to wait until early October to receive definitive responses. We are dependent on the development of the pandemic. There are still a number of weeks ahead of us to go…

ESD: Will there be digital offerings to compensate for the COVID-19 shortcomings? Is there a “Plan B”, just in case a second COVID-19 wave excludes the physical presence of the expected numbers of exhibitors and visitors?
d’Argentré: We are currently thinking about digitising parts of the exhibition. It has already been confirmed that the press area will be paperless to reduce possible COVID-19 transmissions by paper documents. We are also creating Naval-Online, a digital version of EURONAVAL that will enable exhibitors to present their products and services online to visitors unable to attend due to COVID-19. Naval-Online will not be accessible by all. It will be restricted to our exhibitors’ invitees and visitors from countries banned from travelling to, or being in, France due to the pandemic.

ESD: Within the European naval shipyard community there is currently a trend towards consolidation. How do you assess this trend, and which European shipyards have reserved space at the exhibition?
d’Argentré: In Europe, shipyards are joining forces to strengthen the services they offer internationally. This year, NAVIRIS, a joint venture by Naval-Group and Fincantieri, will be attending EURONAVAL for the first time. This new business marks the materialisation of mergers and restructuring within European and global shipbuilding.

ESD: Thank you.

The interview was conducted by Jürgen Hensel.