Advanced sensors, electronic warfare, A.I., cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles and signal intelligence. Swedish Saab serves the global military and civil security market with high-tech products. Now, the company is looking for partners in Silicon Valley.

Founded in Sweden in 1937, Saab Group is since last year a member of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco.

“We want to grow our presence in the region, to keep track of new trends and find potential partners,” said Robert Humeur, head of future sensor capabilities, at Saab in Stockholm.

Saab is a provider of world-leading and technically advanced products, services, and solutions for the military sector; like airplanes, submarines and radar systems.

“We have a business unit that focuses on civilian aircraft, but our main focus is military defense”, said Humeur.

The U.S. is a growing market. Saab provides the U.S. Navy with the radar system Sea Giraffe, contracted for use on capital ships of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. Together with Boeing, Saab developed the T-7A Red Hawk, an advanced pilot training system for the U.S. Air Force.

Saab invests enormous amounts in research and development to meet clients need. Even so, the company is actively looking for partners and suppliers.

“It could be a supplier of smart applications for our systems,”, Humeur said.

Another group of interest for Saab in Silicon Valley is entrepreneurs.

“Sometimes, our creative engineers develop a technological solution that is exciting but not right for our portfolio; it would be great if we could transfer it to an entrepreneur or startup in Silicon Valley. ”

Upgrades are challenging

For decades, technology developed for military use trickled down to consumer devices and services, today it tends to be the other way around. Saab needs to keep track of new consumer trends and startups that might have solutions that could be used for their products.

“Up through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it was the military development in areas like space and communication that showed the way for new consumer products and services”, explained Humeur.

One challenge for the military industry is to find the right balance between hard- and software in products that are expected to last for decades.

“Saab used to be a developer of hardware, but we are increasing our focus on software like surveillance and detection systems, which means that we need to be able to deliver upgrades to our customers,” said Humeur;

“We will never be able to deliver upgrades in the same pace as Google or Facebook do, but we are on the same path.”

An essential component in many of Saab’s products is advanced sensors that generate large amounts of data that have to be quickly and efficiently processed in order to identify patterns and information. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are powerful tools for this.

”Saab was an early developer of complex autonomous systems, and there is a growing demand for systems where humans and machines act together.”

A huge advantage with machines is that, according to Humeur that served three times in Afghanistan, “machines don’t get nervous in a dangerous situation.”

Saab’s U.S. operations is headquartered in Syracuse, NY with sites in several states including Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, and New York.

The company is, according to Humeur, not planning to open an office in Silicon Valley.

“We don’t have any plan for that; we work with U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey and besides that, the Chamber is now acting as our sensors in the region.”

Byline: Margaretha Levander