SPIE security symposium draws diverse crowd

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The SPIE Europe Security+ Defence (ESD) symposium drew a diverse range of opinions and people when it opened its doors to 750 researchers and innovators from around the world. 

There was a big US presence, as well as top people from the UK speaking, including Frances Saunders, CEO of the Defence Science and Technology Lab. Conference programmes included leadership from the UK Ministry of Defence and Rutherford Appleton and other UK labs, and from DARPA, Air Force, Navy, Army, and university research labs in the US.

In a keynote presentation in the conference on Optically Based Biological and Chemical Detection for Defence, Stephen Reeves of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, described technology trends in remote sensing. He said that hyperspectral imaging is expected to be part of future strategies, with the potential to yield spatial and spectral information in hundreds of spectral channels and tens of thousands of spatial channels, allows for fusion of chemical and biological data and statistically-based detection algorithms for background suppression, and leverages the knowledge base from image processing applications.

Plenary speaker Frances Saunders said that central to the goals of DSTL in its support of defence operations are 'helping to save lives in military operations, supporting some of the most difficult decisions, and providing solutions to the most challenging technical problems'.

QinetiQ, General Dynamics, and other companies producing components and systems were also well represented. While the focus of ESD technology is on security and defence applications, these breakthroughs are applied in consumer areas as well, such as Blu-ray DVDs, the internet, and GPS devices.

Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE, offered this perspective on the meeting: ‘The SPIE Europe Security+ Defence (ESD) symposium provides a unique and important opportunity for transatlantic networking on security and defence. We face threats from those who would destroy our civilisation and drive us back to the primitive. The 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001, the 11 March train bombing in Madrid in 2004, and the 7/7 tube bombings in London in 2005 are not distant memories. There is little doubt that work by the ESD community has helped reduce assaults of these types by adaptive partisan forces.’

First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan touched on the vital interplay between industry and research in his opening remarks at the symposium and said: 'Co-operation between companies, academia and government has helped us deliver a number of initiatives aimed at cross-fertilisation between business and our country's science base. For example, links between universities and companies have been promoted by setting up a number of centres of excellence in such advanced sectors as materials, rapid prototyping and environmental modelling.'

The event was held at University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, with Wales also gaining the attention of the SPIE attendees. 'Wales has been quite remarkable in recent years in developing a reputation for high technology,' said Arthurs. 'The obvious support for the industries of the future and the thought that has gone into viable economic planning for an increasingly competitive world say much about the foresight of Welsh leadership.'