Behind the world’s best Airshow is a dynamic team with expertise spanning the aerospace and defence industries. Julie Mears, assistant director of delegations and protocol at FIA looks after the respected Delegations Programme and Meet the Buyer scheme, and explains the significance of these at the show: “We help provide our exhibitors with access to the people they want to see. The Delegations Programme unites government, military and civil delegates from across the globe; we facilitate those all-important meetings.

“Meet the Buyer is hugely important for SMEs. It enables them to meet face-to-face with decision makers from prime and tier one organisations. This is immense for the smaller organisations and provides them with fantastic exposure and opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Flying high in aerospace

Starting out as a clerical assistant aged 17 at the MoD’s Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE), Julie spent almost two decades as part of the civil service, before moving into the commercial world where she worked for QinetiQ, Goodrich and UTC as international marketing communications manager.

Julie says: “I’ve been fortunate enough to work for some fantastic organisations in a really exciting industry. At Goodrich I worked in a department called Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Space.

“I worked closely with the space teams in the US and we launched a satellite for the US Air Force. I was actually at the launch, which took place at NASA’s Wallops Island. I’m sure you can imagine the magnitude of this moment!

“I know I’ve been exceptionally lucky with my career, but the world of aerospace provides you with so much opportunity. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve got friends all over the globe, people who I’ve met through working in the industry, and I’m part of a truly international network.”

Women in Aerospace

When asked about how women across aerospace and defence are represented, Julie thinks the barriers are lifting: “I know a lot of women in senior aviation and aerospace roles. If I was to look back over my career, especially from a defence perspective in the early days, I could go to an event and quite easily be the only woman in the room. This rarely happens now.

“The thing that I love most about this industry, particularly for women, is that you don’t have to come from a technical background. Of course STEM is relevant on the engineering side of things, but it’s not just about that, there are so many choices across our sectors.”

Aerospace is a world-leading industry, and to sustain this there needs to be access to a diverse range of innovators and leaders to ensure the future, as Julie adds: “We need to continue to support each other, combat the gender-stereotypes, and carry on moving forward. I’m highly optimistic for the future. There’s still a way to go, but there are more opportunities than ever before.”

The Delegations Programme

Focussing on her role with Farnborough International, Julie explains the value to be gained from the Delegations Programme and Meet the Buyer scheme.

In its simplest terms, the Delegations Programme is a platform to help provide FIA exhibitors with access to the people they want to see, but also provides access for Farnborough International’s high level delegates, to meet with who they want to see, and the programme facilitates that meeting in the middle.

Julie describes the programme as a ‘three-legged stall’: “The first leg is made up of the official government delegations. These are the militaries that come in from around the world. They are invited on our behalf by the British government, and these delegates are managed by the Department for International Trade Defence and Security Organisation (DIT DSO).

“The second leg means we can invite military delegations from countries that the government doesn’t invite from a commercial perspective, but we also invite UK government departments.

“The final leg of the stall is the civil delegates. I try and break it down into: government military, commercial military, and commercial civil. The latter comprises the airline CEOs, the CAAs, the high level trade organisations. It’s a fantastic programme and has strong networking opportunities on both sides.”

Despite the comprehensive offering the Delegations Programme provides, there will be disappointment as Julie explains: “The show has 1500 exhibitors, and a finite number of delegates. There will not be access for everyone unfortunately. A key part of my role is to manage expectations. Whilst the programme provides amazing opportunities, we accept this as a challenge, and we are always looking for ways to develop and improve the offering at FIA.”

Meet the Buyer

‘Meet the Buyer’ has been one of the most important features at FIA for ten years. The scheme enables SMEs to meet face-to-face with decision makers from prime and tier one organisations. During 2018’s Airshow, more than 900 meetings took place over two mornings generating nearly £11.5 million in business.

According to Julie: “Meet the Buyer has the potential for major impact for aerospace SMEs. Prime and tier one organisations see this as a strategic opportunity to support their supply chains, solve issues and identify opportunities. I’m a huge fan of this scheme, results are seen quickly and I know it’s hugely valued across industry.”

For FIA 2020, Meet the Buyer will be even bigger and better than before. The programme is set to be delivered with a different approach: “We have focussed on improving the compatibility to ensure it is even more effective. A more strategic matching process will ensue as, supported by our own diligence, we have asked for direct input from both the buyers and suppliers. I can’t wait to see the results from this year’s show.”

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