A discussion on the future of A&D with global experts.

In late July I took part in a webinar programme for early career researchers, PhD students and early stage industrial engineers which looked at the future of the Aerospace and Defense Sector. Each of the five webinars brought together a specialist panel, a moderator and a co-moderator to discuss a specific topic in Civil Aerospace, Defense, Space, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Global Challenges. My role as a Next Generation Leader was as co-moderator on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4th IR) webinar on 23rd July 2020 and as a panelist on the Global Challenges webinar on 29th July 2020.

Cyberdyne Systems or Wall-E World?

The 4th IR webinar asked the question, “With the 4th Industrial Revolution, are we heading for a Cyberdyne Systems or Wall-E World?” The panel members included Mr Muk Pandian, a consultant on autonomous systems, Dr Sven Roeren, a production specialist, Mr Paul Perera VP of Technology and Innovation at GKN Aerospace and Prof. Madeline Carr, Cybersecurity Professor at UCL. Joining us in the discussion was Mr Ian Pearson and Ms Bronwyn Williams, futurists in Artificial Intelligence and Finance, respectively. I was joined by Ms Oksana Burdygula, VP at Oliver Wyman Covak, aviation and transportation consultancy as moderator of the webinar.

Our webinar presented views and experiences of the panelists on the 4th Industrial Revolution, it’s many technologies and the impact for the Engineering Industry. We also discussed the necessary regulation and protocols required to ensure safe, equitable and harmonious implementation and adoption of the technologies associated with the 4th IR.   

Some interesting outcomes of the webinar included, primarily, that the 4th IR is already happening around us as a direct evolution of the advances in computing power and internet infrastructure during the 3rd IR. We are seeing the development of technologies at a much faster rate than before thanks to the 3rd IR. It is how these technologies are exploited and managed that will decide if we head to Cyberdyne or Wall-E world. The panel agreed that the 4th IR inherently supports collaborative approaches to solving problems using cross-disciplinary skills and knowledge that arise from the technologies of the 4th IR, but at the same time for proper and safe implementation there still requires a joint and careful approach when it comes to the development of policies and regulation within industry and society.

Personally, this was a great experience as an early career researcher to speak to such a varied panel on this topic. The panelists offered such insightful perspective and advice for the next generation of professionals who will be working, operating, researching and living in the era of the 4th IR as it progresses much further and who knows – even towards the 5th, whatever form that takes?

The webinar is available to watch here.

Global Challenges

The final webinar, Global Challenges, moderated by Mr John Mc Carthy CBE, broadcaster and journalist, brought together the four NGLs from all the webinars alongside a panel of experienced Aerospace and Defense leaders to discuss the part that the A&D sector has to play in addressing some of the Global Challenges of clean energy, water shortages and climate change. This was an especially important webinar as we were presented with both the research and advances in potential solutions to these problems and the humanitarian impact this would hold, being joined by Pablo Suarez, a humanitarian and director of research and innovation. It was a privilege to witness and partake in this discussion to learn what is currently happening and what needs to happen to propel the A&D sector in to action across the world in the face of Global Challenges.

This and all the other webinars in the series are available here.

My thanks to Bert Hunter and Shahid Mughal for the invitation to participate and their support during this webinar.

Imelda Friel