Over the last decade, national defence budgets in most EU Member States have been negatively and strongly affecting the solidity of the EDTIB. EU funding sources, though only competitively accessed, can alleviate this problem by providing defence-related stakeholders in Member States with new opportunities.
From 2013 to 2015, EDA has been raising awareness on such opportunities by delivering 12 ESIF seminars in Member States (BG, CZ, EL, FI, IE, HR, HU, IT, LV, PL, PT, RO), including concrete coaching sessions (which have been representing an effective local learning process on how to actually prepare and submit an ESIF proposal). Through high-level roundtables, ESIF seminars have also been supporting dialogue and contacts between Ministries of Defence (MoDs) and national/regional ESIF Managing Authorities and contributing to the establishment of a new mindset for reciprocal cooperation. As a result, in some regions, MoDs’ experts and dual-use priorities have been integrated in the definition of the local R&T+I Smart Specialisation Strategy (RIS3).
Taking also into account workshops and training delivered at EDA premises, about 1300 defence-related experts (from MoDs, SMEs, universities, research and technology organisations, etc.) benefitted from EDA events on ESIF.
EDA has also been selecting dual-use projects to provide with free high-level technical assistance in order to maximise their chance to access ESIF grants. A first 2014 pilot procedure successfully resulted in one Portuguese project being 60% co-funded by the European Regional and Development Fund (ERDF - one out of the five ESI Funds). A second successful project has been awarded in 2016 with almost 80% co-funding by a Polish ERDF national Managing Authority.
EDA has also published a handbook providing a step-by-step guidance to defence stakeholders on how to apply for ESIF.
Since 2015, to further and extensively validate its successful methodology within the ESIF multiannual financial framework running till 2020, EDA is, based on a specific “ESIF Request for Projects” procedure, supporting access to ESIF for 30 dual-use R&T projects in 16 EDA participating Member States, and within 22 predefined priority areas. Like in the former pilot procedure, it specifically targeted the ERDF. Under above 2015 procedure, the first project assessed by an ESIF Managing Authority has been funded (and an MOD has been directly co-funded too, as official Partner of the awarded consortium).
Since 2016 EDA is also assisting MoDs to develop cooperative dual-use projects in the field of maritime security (thereby also supporting the EUMSS Action Plan), in order to provide them with technical support to apply for ESIF Transnational (“Interreg V.B”) co-funding.
Through a dedicated study on the EU COSME Programme (2014-2020) EDA has explored in 2016 the opportunities provided by this new EU instrument. The study assessed potential restrictions for defence-related SMEs and cluster organisations to access to COSME finance (long term loans and equity investments), COSME-funded advisory services on EU market opportunities (through the EC’s Enterprise Europe Network - EEN) and COSME grants for cross-border cluster partnerships. Based on the outcome of this study, EDA is working on new initiatives in support of defence-related SMEs.
Since 2016, EDA is delivering more comprehensive “EU funding” seminars in Member States (CY, ES, AT), by addressing at least both ESIF and COSME opportunities for all defence-related stakeholders.