EDA Defence Ministers, meeting today at the Agency’s ministerial Steering Board, have approved the establishment of a Hub for EU Defence Innovation (HEDI) within EDA. The Hub will strengthen the Agency’s existing innovation activities but also initiate new ones, in close cooperation with Member States and EU stakeholders. Today’s decision comes after the Strategic Compass for Security and Defence, approved in March, called for the creation of such a Hub in 2022.
HEDI will act as a platform to stimulate, facilitate and support cooperation on defence innovation among Member States while ensuring synergies with related European Commission activities, notably the EU defence innovation scheme, and coherence of output with NATO innovation initiatives such as the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA).
HEDI will operate at the intersection of EDA’s already existing innovation activities, serving as a catalyst and amplifier. The existing Innovation Framework in EDA contains the necessary tools to support collaborative defence innovation and is based on three pillars: - identification of innovative ideas and innovators; - implementation of these ideas; - outreach to increase the awareness of the solutions produced and their application to the defence domain. HEDI’s activities will be focused on the agreed EU priorities for capability development (Capability Development Plan), defence research (Overarching Strategic Research Agenda) as well as industrial capabilities (Key Strategic Activities).
The Head of EDA, HR/VP Josep Borrell, said: “Less than two months after the adoption of the EU’s Strategic Compass, we deliver on one of the Compass’ main priorities by establishing the European Defence Agency’s Defence Innovation Hub. Working closely with the Commission, the Hub will help our Armed Forces to step up their innovation efforts to be better prepared for the future battlefield and the next generation technologies”.
EDA Chief Executive, Jiří Šedivý said: “With the rapid development of new and often disruptive technologies and their fast weaponisation, innovation has become a geostrategic factor shaping the international security environment and the global balance of power. The establishment of HEDI is a clear signal that our Ministries of Defence take innovation seriously and that they want to invest more in it, and act together. HEDI will help develop the synergies needed to connect existing innovation efforts and stimulate the launch of new ones, for the benefit of European Defence”.
THREE STEP APPROACH
Three steps have been defined for the Hub to progressively grow and fulfil its role:
- Step 1: inspiring and promoting innovation at EU level. During this ramp-up phase, the Hub will focus on networking and situational awareness activities, making the most of existing EDA resources. Activities to be deployed during this initial phase include the exchange of best innovation practices across the EU and the organisation of a first European Defence Innovation Day on 31 May 2022. HEDI will also contribute to creating a ‘common picture’ of defence innovation in Europe. For this purpose, it will organise stakeholder groups and workshops and set up and manage networks of defence innovation organisations and researchers who will be invited to exchange views on these topics once or twice a year.
- Step 2: facilitating innovation across Member States and EU institutions. This second phase will see HEDI drive activities such as the upgrade of the existing EDA Defence Innovation Prize (increase in the number of prizes awarded and of domains covered), the funding of proof-of-concept of innovative ideas, the organisation of European Defence Innovation Shows, the launch in cooperation with partners of so-called Innovation Challenges (a specific R&T methodology targeting short cycles of development from proof-of-principle to minimum viable product), as well as specific actions to support the uptake of innovation ideas/concepts towards capability development.
- Step 3: making of HEDI an EU-wide platform for cooperative design and experimentation embedded in the EU capability development process. The activities to be undertaken will be decided by Member States at a later stage.
EMBEDDED IN EDA
HEDI will be embedded within the existing EDA framework and staffed by EDA personnel. According to guidelines approved today, the launch of the new Hub should not come at the expense of existing EDA activities. It will function under EDA’s 3-Year Planning Framework with a yearly reporting and evaluation in the starting phase. EDA shall regularly report to the Steering Board on the progress and way ahead, specifically on the impact, lessons learned, and possible updates of the stepped implementation plan. The Steering Board will evaluate the progress of the HEDI and its proposed activities for the next year.
The work that led to the creation of HEDI initially started in May 2021 when the Foreign Affairs Council called for reinforcing EDA’s role in fostering defence innovation and tasked the HR/VP and Head of EDA, Josep Borrell, to present options by the end of 2021. Among the options put on the table (and now approved) was that of establishing a Hub for EU Defence Innovation within EDA.