The European Defence Agency (EDA) together with the European Commission (EC) support industries and institutes active in dual-use research to access European Structural Funds (ESF), with special focus on SMEs. Recently, seven projects have been selected according to technical eligibility criteria and R&T priorities and assisted in the application process.
EDA and EC coordinate their research efforts in the areas of defence and security. Moreover, exploiting existing EU supporting tools and funds for dual-use research projects is a means to promote innovation in the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) while retaining key technological and industrial capabilities in Europe. EDA’s work on ESF analyses the potential of accessing ESF for dual-use R&T projects and to provide interested stakeholders with a methodology to do so.
SMEs are the backbone of the European economy with more than 20 million SMEs in the EU representing 99% of business. European SMEs often develop dual-use goods or services in a wide range of industries: energy, telecom and ICT, automotive, material, chemical, aeronautics and space etc. Innovation in the supply chain depends massively on SMEs, which are a key enabler for future industrial competiveness. EDA consequently developed and currently implements an SME Action Plan with a menu of supporting measures including facilitating access to ESF.
“The main goal of EDA’s Action Plan on SMEs is to ensure that key technical and industrial priorities are developed and maintained in Europe. In a climate of budget constraints, we need to efficiently use existing EU instruments to harness synergies for civil-military research”, said Claude-France Arnould during a press briefing on 12 December. Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of DG Enterprise and Industry at the European Commission added at the same occasion that cross-fertilisation between civil and defence was an increasingly important factor for the future of the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base. The European Commission thus encouraged and promoted civil-military synergies.
Awareness, project support & methodoloy
The main objectives of EDA’s work on ESF are to raise awareness among Ministries of Defence and defence industry as regards the use of ESF and a series of dedicated workshops in different countries have been organised so far; to identify and support eligible pilot projects in R&T and industrial capabilities for the European Structural Funds; and to develop a methodology to be used by the Ministries of Defence to increase eligibility for future projects.
In terms of concrete support to projects, twelve Member States submitted 72 project proposals for screening. While the Agency provided guidance and support to 44 projects, it selected seven pilot projects (from Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Portugal, France, UK and Spain) which were actively assisted in the development of the application folders. Out of the selected projects, two applications have been successfully submitted by the project holders to the national managing authorities for co-funding, while the rest will be submitted during the current or the next financial framework 2014-2020.
Janusz Michalcewicz, CEO of the Polish SME EUROTECH which applied for project funding for developing an airborne collision avoidance system for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and Very Light Aircraft in low-altitude airspace based on numerical image processing, confirmed during the press briefing that access to additional funding was essential for innovative dual-use research. He highlighted that the necessary administrative procedures to access ESF pose a heavy burden on SMEs. The support provided by the EDA and the Polish Ministry of Defence was therefore essential for his company to proceed with the research.
ESF has the potential to become an additional source of funding research and innovation dual-use projects in the field of security and defence. After an experimental phase in 2013, EDA will promote a more systematic approach in support of Member States, taking advantage of the programming period 2014-2020.