More than 120 attendees gathered on 25 November in Brussels to exchange views and offer ways forward on an important issue for the European defence industry: dual-use and smart clustering. The workshop was organised jointly by the European Commission, the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the European association of development agencies (EURADA).
The event was divided into three successive panels, the first one focusing on the European Union’s existing policies and tools to support dual-use research and clustering. “The EU is working to support clusters as a good breeding ground for innovative small & medium-sized enterprises”, a Commission representative pointed out. “This is all the more important as 38% of European jobs are based in clusters”, he added.
Actions and tools
Presentations were given on the COSME, Horizon 2020 programme, European Structural and Investment Funds as well as EDA actions and tools in support of defence-related SMEs, clusters and the defence supply chain. An EDA official underlined that “those SMEs and clusters that participate in defence markets are typically involved in dual-use activities and the increasing convergence of defence and security creates even greater emphasis on dual-use”.
A second panel offered stakeholders from defence-related clusters an opportunity to share their experiences and the associated challenges. Clusters from Estonia, France, Poland and Portugal were represented. They emphasised the need for greater cooperation at EU level in order to develop their dual-use activities. “Dual-use is in our DNA”, stated Jean-Luc Logel, president of the French EDEN cluster.
After a networking session held over lunch, a third and final panel focused on ways to develop dual-use opportunities at European level and saw interventions from the ECSEL Joint Undertaking, the European Commission and EDA. Reinhard Marak, from the Austrian National Defence Industry Association, provided industrial views on the subject: “We have to identify new funding schemes to alleviate the decline in defence spending and investment, but dual-use is no cure for all: if you want to access those funds you first need national buy-in”, he stressed.
In their concluding remarks, Tarja Jaakkola (EDA) and Sylvia Kainz-Huber (European Commission) underlined that this event provided a good opportunity for European policy-makers and representatives of the defence-related clusters and industry to exchange views on current and on-coming policies and tools with impact on clusters and dual-use activities. They encouraged participants to take advantage of such tools and stressed the need for more cooperation and networking between defence-related actors at European level.
Participants then had the opportunity to engage with other attendees during a networking session of pre-arranged one-on-one meetings. About 60 of those pre-arranged meetings were held and most of the attendees expressed a wish to see more similar opportunities in the future.