The Portuguese authority managing European Structural Funds has recently confirmed the acceptance of the “TURTLE” project, financing around 60% of the total project budget. TURTLE is the first of seven dual-use research initiatives supported by the European Defence Agency to access European Structural Funds (ESF). It aims at developing key enabling technologies for a sustainable and long term presence in the ocean.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) and European Commission (EC) coordinate their research efforts in the areas of defence and security: the use of existing EU supporting tools and funds for dual-use research projects is a means to promote innovation in Europe while retaining key technological and industrial capabilities. EDA facilitates and supports access to dual-use R&T projects. The TURTLE project was developed by a consortium of Portuguese SMEs, research institutes and universities. Its aim is to produce new robotic ascend and descent energy efficient technologies to be incorporated in robotic vehicles used by civil and military stakeholders for underwater operations. In the defence sector, the technology will allow underwater unmanned marine systems and robotics to operate at lower cost and added capabilities. The Portuguese authorities now decided to co-finance TURTLE with around €770.000 (around 60% of the total project costs) through the ESF.
EDA Support to Projects
The main objectives of EDA’s work on ESF are to raise awareness among Ministries of Defence and defence industry, with special focus on defence related SMEs, as regards the use of ESF; so far a series of dedicated workshops in different countries have been organised; EDA also identifies and supports eligible pilot projects in R&T priorities and industrial capabilities for the European Structural Funds; and is developing a methodology to be used by the Ministries of Defence and defence industry to increase eligibility for future projects.
In terms of concrete support to projects, twelve Member States submitted 72 project proposals for screening. The Agency provided free-of-charge guidance and support to 44 projects and 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 new financial framework 2014-2020. The Portuguese project “TURTLE” is the first EDA supported project for which a decision on funding has been taken.
Stimulating Dual-Use Technologies
The European Council of 19 December 2013 underlined the importance of stimulating dual-use research and support to SMEs. Embedded in the Agency’s Action Plan on SMEs, the Agency’s support for dual-use research projects is of concrete benefit for initiators. EDA will continue working with stakeholders to access European Structural Funds in 2014 in proposing a systematic approach, taking advantage of the programming period 2014-2020. Moreover the Agency will organise seminars in Member States with the participation of government, industry and research centers to mobilise stakeholders to apply for ESF for dual use R&T projects. Upon a second call, EDA will select additional projects to support the development of application folders focusing on identified priority areas such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, space, energy efficiency, or cyber defence.
TURTLE is developed by the following entities:
- Silva Matos Metalomecanica S.A (Small-Medium Enterprise): The main promoter, responsible for all mechanical and market introduction;
- INESC PORTO (Technology & Science Laboratory): Responsible with ISEP for the robotization of the TURTLE project;
- ISEP (School of Engineering, Porto Polytechnic Institute) and
- CINAV (Portuguese Navy Research Center): responsible to develop acoustic detection adapted to the solution and demonstrate the use in security application.