EDA’s Steering Board has just approved a list of 10 topics to be assessed by the Agency in the coming months for their potential to be considered ‘Key Strategic Activities’ for the European Union in their endeavour to move towards strategic autonomy in the security and defence domain. The selected topics are all related to either the EU Capability Development Priorities or the defence research priorities jointly agreed in EDA.
In the wake of the 2016 EU Global Strategy, which defined strategic autonomy in the field of security and defence as a long-term goal, EDA was tasked with identifying ‘Key Strategic Activities’ (KSA) - ranging from technological knowledge to industrial manufacturing skills - which Europe would need to acquire, maintain or further develop in order to be able to produce itself the defence equipment it needs. The aim of the KSA exercise is to identify, and then support, ‘must-have’ technologies and industrial abilities without which an appropriate level of strategic autonomy isn’t possible. Once selected, the KSA have very practical implications as they will inform Member States’ defence investments and potentially draw co-financing from relevant EU funding instruments, including the European Defence Fund (EDF).
Annual selection cycle
On 21 October 2020, the Agency’s Steering Board agreed on a revised KSA methodology. One of its novelties is the introduction of an annual cycle to make the KSA work-strand more structured for stakeholders. The first step of the annual cycle is the selection of topics for KSA assessment, based on agreed capability and research priority areas identified in the EU Capability Development Priorities (EU CDPs) and the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda Technology Building Blocks (OSRA TBB). In the selection, the Strategic Context Cases (SCC) and the outcome of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) are also taken into account. Industry is also consulted.
Topics to be assessed
The 10 topics which were now selected for an in-depth industrial assessment are the following:
- Precision Strike Capabilities for Land Platforms & Related Skills
- Soldier systems
- Next Generation of Energy & Propulsion Systems for Air Platforms
- Counter-UAS (C-UAS)
- Underwater Communication Within UMS
- Underwater Detection
- 5G for defence
- Quantum Technologies (sensing, computing, communication)
- Sensors Network with ISR Sensors
- Military Application of Cloud Technologies.
Based on the agreed list of topics, EDA will now start the development of the ten individual KSA reports within the current annual cycle. The draft reports will be presented to the participating Member States as well as industry in June 2021, while the finalisation of the documents will take place in in September 2021.
EDA has developed 24 KSA reports so far in close cooperation with participating Member States and industry. As some examples, the KSA report on Cyber Defence R&T aims at both assessing and identifying the industrial activities needed to ensure the cyber resilience of information and communication systems being used within the EU members armed forces. The KSA report on Cutting Edge Technologies for Helicopters/Tiltrotors draws attention to the different technological avenues of approach that should be promoted to contribute to EU independent capabilities in the field of helicopter platforms. In addition, other reports explore the different challenges the EU should overcome to harness the full potential of strategic enablers such as Artificial intelligence and Big Data.