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Vienna Conference highlights research potential of European Defence Fund

Picture: Bundesheer/Daniel Trippolt

A high-level EU conference on ‘The European Defence Fund (EDF) – Driving factor for defence research and innovation’ took place today in Vienna. The event, which gathered some 500 defence policy makers, industry representatives, researchers and other stakeholders, was organized by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the support of European Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA). 

The conference was opened by Austria’s Defence Minister Mario Kunasek, followed by video messages delivered by European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship & SMEs). Key note speeches were delivered by European Parliament Vice President and rapporteur on the European Defence Fund), Prof. Zdzisław Krasnodębski, EU Military Committee Chairman General Mikhail Kostarakos, as well as EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq.  Successive panels then analysed and debated the European Commission’s EDF proposal, the interaction and consistency between research and capability development, as well as the future design of financial instruments tailored for the needs and challenges of the European defence sector. EDA Deputy Chief Executive Olli Ruutu and EDA’s European Synergies & Innovation (ESI) Director, Denis Roger, were among the panelists participating in these debates. 

In his opening speech, Minister Kunasek stressed the importance for Europe to have an “innovative and competitive European defence industry”. “We therefore require new ways of cooperation between Armed Forces, entreprises, industry and the research community in order to find scientific, technological and capability-based solutions, and to activate value chains that help us strengthen our security and defence competence”, he stated.  

EDA Chief Executive Domecq, in his speech, insisted on the need to ensure coherence and consistency between the EDF and the other EU defence initiatives, especially the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). On top of that, the baseline for all three initiatives should be the 2018 Capability Development Plan (CDP). “Even if we ensure that all three initiatives – CARD, PESCO, EDF - are smoothly coordinated and harmonised, there is one element which is indispensable for coherent capability development at European level, and that is common priority setting, which must be the baseline for CARD, PESCO and EDF”, he said.

In the research domain, common priority setting is ensured by the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda (OSRA) which links capability priorities and defence research activities. “What the CDP is for capability development, the OSRA is for research. Before the end of the year, we will, for the first time, have adopted agreed research priorities stemming from the CDP 2018, that can be used for not only ad-hoc research activities among Member States but also for the Research Window of the EDF projects and other funding instruments such as H2020, Horizon Europe, ESIF, COSME, and more”, Mr Domecq announced.

It is important that the EDF takes into account the experiences from the EDIDP discussions, as well as the lessons learned from the implementation of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research and the previous Pilot Project, the EDA Chief Executive said.  If the Defence Fund is capability driven, focused on the agreed priorities and coherent with the other defence initiatives, “then it has a great potential added value in the development of European defence capabilities and incentivizing cooperation”, Mr Domecq concluded.

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