Since the inaugural exhibition in 1993, IDEX has steadily grown in size and prestige. Exhibition space has been increased, the exhibition halls have grown, and conference facilities have been added. For the first IDEX, there were just 350 exhibitors from 24 nations, in an area of 12,000m2.
From the first exhibition, role demonstrations were an important element of IDEX, even including a live firepower demonstration. In 2005, in response to the growing popularity of IDEX, development of today's Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, ADNEC, began. It was officially opened by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and has hosted IDEX since 2007.
By the ninth show, in 2009, the number of exhibitors and guests at IDEX had doubled and the event space had reached more than 108,000 sq.m. The expansion included the Marina Quay area that allows naval vessels of various sizes to dock and is connected to ADNEC via a pedestrian walkway. This replaced the use of the Zayed Port.
In 2009, IDEX began allocating dedicated display spaces for first-time exhibitors, helping smaller and newer companies to showcase their products and build partnerships.
NAVDEX, the region's largest maritime defence exhibition, was inaugurated in 2011 at the 10th edition of IDEX. In 2013, exhibitor numbers exceeded 1,110 and visitor numbers reached 80,000, while deals worth Dh14.1 billion were recorded.
For its 12th edition, IDEX 2015, ADNEC has provided more than 133,000 sq.m. of exhibition space for 1,200 exhibitors, and has launched the Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX). Some 55 nations are represented, with six countries participating for the first time – Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand and Slovenia.