His Excellency Faisal Al Bannai, CEO and Managing Director of EDGE Group, spoke of the new defense conglomerate’s evolution, current priorities, and future plans during a U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council webinar held on 17 February 2021 as a preview to IDEX and NAVDEX. A video of the webinar can be found here.
In conversation with U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council President Danny Sebright, His Excellency discussed the growth of EDGE since its inception in November 2019 and outlined its organizational structure. Moreover, he highlighted three areas where EDGE will showcase new capabilities at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference being held next week in Abu Dhabi:
- autonomous and unmanned technology, including UAVs, UGVs, and boats;
- electronic warfare, including jamming technologies;
- and smart weapons
His Excellency emphasized the importance EDGE places on autonomous capabilities since the U.A.E. is a “small country” with “not a large population,” and these technologies act as a “force multiplier.” EDGE intends to make news at IDEX in these areas by unveiling new technologies and solutions for the U.A.E. warfighter and other potential buyers.
Noting that EDGE Group was founded less than a year and a half ago, H.E. Bannai reflected on the organization’s “interesting journey” to “unify the vision and roadmap and accelerate the capabilities” of 24 separate companies and 12,000 employees, largely in the midst of the Covid pandemic. While H.E. Bannai explained that EDGE is focused on strengthening the U.A.E.’s “sovereign capabilities to defend itself,” he also stressed that EDGE is a “technology company that happens to be in the defense space.” H.E. outlined EDGE’s focus on “accelerating smart technology globally” and in so doing directly helping to develop the U.A.E.’s “knowledge economy.”
Notably, H.E. Bannai discussed his eagerness to seek out innovative new partners, particularly SMEs, that specialize in “niche technology” that is commercially available but could be made more robust or military grade. H.E. Bannai noted that its partnership model with innovative companies enables EDGE and its partners to work as a team to bring new and innovative hybrid products to the market at competitive prices. H.E. Bannai stressed that EDGE Group is able to create a cheaper product more quickly partly because it “knows what it wants and is able to cut through the red tape that can traditionally hamper development projects.”
H.E. Bannai elaborated on EDGE’s view of partnerships, which fall into three categories.
1) “Valued Commercial Relationship” in which EDGE buys products from the company;
2) “Valued Partner” with which EDGE buys products from the company and the company assists in building products; and
3) “Valued Strategic Partner” in which EDGE might work with the company in various ways like creating joint development projects, jointly invest capital, and with the company buying products from EDGE.
H.E. Bannai noted that EDGE will prioritize buying from valued partners.
His Excellency also spoke about EDGE’s “DNA” as a company and the “urgency” with which it operates as an organization. H.E. Bannai is ensuring that EDGE maintains a “start-up mindset” in order to move with speed and retain the ability to make decisions quickly. In line with this objective, H.E. Bannai noted that EDGE replaced committees governed by consensus with more efficient “working groups” headed by executives who are empowered to act quickly. His Excellency stated that this mindset is meant to permeate all that EDGE does and that if any partner or potential partner believes they are not receiving a straight or quick answer they should contact the senior executive team and/or himself immediately.
His Excellency detailed opportunities related to both the Abraham Accords and the recent $23 billion arms sale between the U.S. and U.A.E. He agreed that air defense was “absolutely” a rich area for potential cooperation between U.S., U.A.E., and Israeli industry. As for the U.S. arms sales package, H.E. Bannai shared that EDGE is discussing with its partners how to add and integrate systems to the weapons platforms within that would make it more useful for the U.A.E. H.E. Bannai stated that today EDGE is big enough to successfully produce products that can be outfitted to go on these platforms and support these systems.
Finally, on a personal note, His Excellency reflected on the broader importance of his work as well as “what keeps him up at night.” H.E. Bannai said he is proud to be “helping shape the destiny” of his country, playing a role in the history of the U.A.E., and building the next phase of the nation. In turn, H.E. Bannai shared that the challenge of “getting or growing the right talent for the country” keeps him up at night, as this is an important priority for the continued success of EDGE.
For more information about the role of EDGE within the U.A.E.’s defense sector, please see the Business Council’s latest report on the U.S.-U.A.E. Defense and Security Relationship. For more information about the Business Council’s exciting slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Ms. Mary Zuccarello at email@example.com or visit our website at www.usuaebusiness.org.