(Originally published in "Outlook 2014" - January 2014 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal)

By Glenn Copeland, President, Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of NS

Heading into 2014, the implementation of the Canada First Defense Strategy is the main thrust for the aerospace and defence (A&D) sector. Our industry remains vibrant as a result.

A number of programs in support of this initiative, which sets a detailed road-map for the modernization of the Canadian Forces, are expected to be completed out of Nova Scotia with our suppliers feeding directly into the supply chain in support of many of the industry’s leaders. Programs such as the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), Fixed Wing Search and Rescue, and the Maritime Helicopter Replacement Program all have, or will have, deep connections to industries here in our province.

Now fully underway, shipbuilding is moving at a pace necessary to support program implementation for the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship Program and 2014 will largely be focused on finalizing design requirements, lining up potential suppliers and choosing the systems for integration into the platform.  

Those outside of shipbuilding know that while the Fighter Replacement Program remains under review in Canada, the fact is we already have companies actively fabricating fuselage parts for the Joint Strike Fighter and leveraging that technology to supply Airbus Industries as well as Boeing in the commercial aviation markets.

The industry will remain strong throughout 2014 due to the diversity of the work and the strength and health of the long-term programs under which many of our companies participate. Internationally, our membership is recognized for some very unique technologies that now find their way into programs in countries around the world. Within our industry parks and office towers, we are fabricating optronic devices, unmanned vehicles, high-resolution imaging systems, world-class command and control systems software and more. Many of our companies are peerless leaders, well entrenched in the global supply chain as a result of the quality of the products and the support services they provide.

Challenges face every industry but Nova Scotia’s A&D sector’s challenge will be to retain its top talent and grow leaders. Some of the best technicians and engineers graduate from our colleges and universities yet they choose not to reside here once they enter the workforce. In a globally competitive market we need to be able to demonstrate that the opportunity is here and that meaningful work will remain over the long haul. In order to create those opportunities, industry needs to help government remove the ambiguity surrounding the individual large-scale program requirements and start to shape realistic, cost-effective and low-risk solutions that will get these programs underway sooner.

The future of A&D is charged with opportunity in Atlantic Canada and the technological base and expertise necessary to take advantage of that already exists within this province. Nova Scotia needs to aggressively sell its story and be fully represented at the table when these programs begin to actively search for innovative solutions.

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Fast Fact:

ADIANS membership increased by 16 per cent in 2013, representing more than 60 Nova Scotia businesses working in the A&D sector.