Security research and defence research: Towards greater synergies
By Axel Dyèvre (*) | Wednesday 18 November 2009
In the area of security and defence technology, the European Union has been playing an increasingly important role over the last few years as a catalyst for member states, the industrial sector and research centres. This policy is mainly concentrated in two distinct areas: the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the security themes of the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme (FP7).
This increased cooperation among Europeans, which is often justified by citizens’ demand for security vis-à-vis the EU, is particularly encouraged by member states, always looking to optimise budgets. Unfortunately, this somewhat idyllic vision comes up against a simple reality: the EU institutions’ money, regardless of whether or not it is within the Community’ scope, comes from member states, in other words taxpayers. Therefore, there are not any new resources, but at best simply transferred resources. This reality is less sensitive in the security sector, as the framework programme covers a seven-year period and the budget is voted on for this period. It is more sensitive at the EDA, where the budgets are debated and voted on each year. Another finding: the joint programmes are not necessarily less expensive as the operating costs and differences in conditions can lead to slowness and significant extra costs. It is only by having participated in several European security and defence projects that one gains a clear perspective of these difficulties, not to mention the bureaucracy inherent in these projects.
But these criticisms must be put in context as the creation of the EDA and the launch of the Commission’s security research programme only happened in 2004. It is difficult to make definitive judgements on such ambitious policies, and in areas where national sensitivities are so high, in a period as short as five years. And we should not forget the domino effect of these policies. Take for example France – which, excluding nuclear, represents, along with the United Kingdom, 70% of member states’ aggregate defence research and technology – carries out about 20% of its programmes in cooperation, of which almost half within the EDA. At the same time, the European Commission is investing €1.4 billion in security research for the 2007-2013 period (excluding space). In France, the National Research Agency, known as the ANR, launched for the fourth consecutive year the ‘Concepts, Systems and Tools for Global Security’ programme, in alignment with FP7 security. In Germany this year, the Federal Ministry for Research and Education reached an agreement with the ANR to finance some projects put forward by French and German partners. This is an undeniable sign of consistency between EU and national policies.
Another tangible effect is that these policies make a real contribution towards creating European networks. Public bodies, academia, industry and research centres are all getting more and more used to working together. Without going as far as to talk of centres of excellence, we can already say that the funds invested by EU institutions have helped create networks of trust between the key players. We must not lose sight of the good results of projects financed by EU funds. They help build, independently, the industrial base needed to give the EU security systems, military equipment and civilian management capabilities. Developing a network of the key players also helps to improve capabilities in different member states by giving their industries the opportunity to work for and with ‘coopetitors’. The same reasoning holds for public authorities, which get the opportunity to work on a European scale and better understand the problems of their neighbours and partners. The European security and defence research projects launched in recent years have allowed all sides to strengthen their relations, at a European level, with the relevant ministries and agencies, the big public research facilities, industry and universities, as well as the smallest laboratories and SMEs.
But there remains a lot to be done. And, to date, two areas of improvement seem paramount.
- Better synergy between R&D in defence and that in security. The 8th Framework Programme will be launched in 2014 and so now is the time to think about how to proceed and also ask ourselves about the specific aspects on which there will not, de facto, be agreement.
- Research programmes still have too little connection with the market, there being no structure that ensures a follow-up to these projects and ensures that the money spent in R&D by European taxpayers will be turned into equipment programmes.
Research into greater synergies between security and defence as well as between research and the market are avenues to be explored in coming months. The adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and the merging of the ‘pillars’ should both be the opportunity and the accelerator for these developments.
(*) Axel Dyèvre (email@example.com) is the head of the CEIS’s European office in Brussels
Research programmes have too little connection with the market