The European Defence Agency (EDA) supports the development of defence capabilities of its participating Member States through a coherent prioritisation framework with three complementary tools: the Capability Development Plan (CDP), the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) and the identification of Key Strategic Activities (KSA).
The EU Global Strategy, published by the High Representative/Vice President/Head of Agency in 2016, states that Member States need the technological and industrial means to acquire and sustain those capabilities which underpin their ability to act autonomously. In this context, the objective of KSA is to analyse defence industrial and technological capacities within the European Union, and to identify crucial areas with a view to strengthening the EU’s strategic autonomy. This approach is also in line with the broader aspiration of the EU to address and mitigate dependencies from external markets and to reinforce the security of European supply chains. The “New Industrial Strategy for Europe”, published by the European Commission in March 2020, reflects this industrial policy in support of the EU’s industrial and technological sovereignty, including in the space and defence sectors.
Raising awareness and identifying funding opportunities
The ambition of KSA is to raise awareness and promote a common understanding of Member States, EU institutions and defence industrial actors about industrial and technological areas, as well as skills and competencies where dependency from non-EU players could put at risk the EU’s freedom of action in the defence domain. The identified Key Strategic Activities are suggested to become specific targets for national and EU funding schemes, including the European Defence Fund, hence contributing to the development of a more competitive and autonomous European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB). The KSA process also intends to promote collaboration between Member States along agreed capability and research priority areas, while focusing on the industrial aspects.
Based on a solid methodology to ensure coherence
In order to ensure a coherent approach between EDA’s different prioritisation tools, topics for the KSA assessment are identified out of the agreed capability and research priorities outlined within the CDP and OSRA, but also the outcome of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) is taken into consideration. The KSA process is outlined in the revised methodology, agreed by Member States on 21 October 2020, along the following principles:
Driven and owned by Member States;
Based on agreed research and capability priorities;
With the involvement of defence industry;
Add value at EU level;
The KSA reports, which are the outcome of the process, are developed through four steps:
First step: identification of topics for the KSA analysis;
Second step: development of the draft KSA reports;
Third step: consultation on the draft KSA reports with Member States and defence industry;
Fourth step: Finalisation of the KSA reports and their submission to the EDA Steering Board for notification, and follow-up actions.
The KSA reports include a mapping of funding opportunities at EU level (European Defence Fund, European Regional Development Fund under the European Structural and Investment Funds, skills related funding instruments, European Investment Bank funding, etc.) with the aim to propose how to mobilise the means available to support the identified activities. The KSA reports will also provide an industrial panorama in targeted capability and technology domains, thus enhancing the relevance of the KSA analyses on the promotion of a more competitive and autonomous EDTIB. A special attention is given to SMEs and critical materials, where applicable. Defence industry is consulted through the National Defence Industry Associations and the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Associations of Europe, in line with EDA’s industry engagement approach.
An ongoing process with living KSA reports
The current KSA reports cover a wide range of agreed capability and research priority areas (e.g. Cyber Defence R&T, Satcom, Automated Air-to-Air Refuelling, or Artificial Intelligence and Biga Data, etc.). The KSA assessment continuous to be an ongoing process that needs to consider industrial developments, the fast-evolving technology landscape, as well as possible future changes in terms of capability and technology priorities. Therefore, the KSA reports are living documents which might require a revision from time to time. A need for revision might occur to already published reports, as well as to the applied methodology itself based on experiences and lessons learned.