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Offshore energy and defence require better synergy - EDA Symbiosis conference hears

6 minutes

The inaugural event promoting co-existence between defence activities and offshore renewable energy installations was held on 28 June 2023, in Brussels. The first plenary conference of the Symbiosis project, marks a significant milestone following its launch last October. As the first EDA Horizon Europe-funded project, Symbiosis enhances defence energy resilience and charts a path for future cooperation, amplifying the potential of offshore renewable energy within the European Union.

Symbiosis conference: harnessing offshore energy for sustainable energy

As the EU prioritises offshore renewable energy to achieve climate neutrality, it is  essential for the defence sector to adapt and contribute to energy resilience and sustainability efforts. The Symbiosis – Offshore Renewable Energy for Defence project, funded under Horizon Europe, aims to identify and present the conditions to promote the co-existence between offshore renewable energy projects and defence activities and systems in European maritime spaces.

Gathering more than 100 participants, and opened by Jean-François Ripoche, Director Research, Technology and Innovation with a keynote speeh by Hans Van Steen, Principal Advisor to DG ENER of the European Commission, the conference spotlighted Europe’s offshore wind sector, highlighting its potential and challenges while emphasising the EU’s role in promoting energy development and maritime security. The event also underscored the importance of developing synergies between offshore energy and defence and the need for a collaborative approach towards a sustainable future. Attendees delved into the Symbiosis project’s scope, objectives, and prospects.

Upscaling offshore

In his welcome address, the EDA Director Research, Technology and Innovation, Jean-François Ripoche, underlined that the “Symbiosis project was built on the extensive work carried out as part of the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector, demonstrating EDA’s and Commission commitment for ensuring coherence of activities and turning ideas to real projects.” Ripoche acknowledged that “EDA has been identified as the most suitable actor in the EU defence landscape to act as the interface between the MoDs and the wider EU public, private and industrial communities to create viable conditions for co-existence”. In this regard, he encouraged all the relevant stakeholders to support EDA’s work stressing that this project aims to spur innovation and provide modelling solutions with mutual benefits.

In his keynote speech, Hans Van Steen, Principal Advisor to DG ENER, emphasised that the European Commission as well as the EU Member states have very ambitious plans for the upscaling of offshore energy in the years to come. Energy from offshore renewable sources is indispensable to avoid climate change and secure our energy supply. However, the maritime space is not infinite and the right compromises and solutions need to be found. For this co-existence is the keyword. To reach the offshore ambitions for 2030 and 2050 we need all actors involved: Industry, academia, spatial planners and of course defence.

symbiosis speakers

Symbiosis project - scope

The project will map the maritime defence areas, assess their suitability for deploying offshore renewable projects, and identify hurdles and risks that constrain their exploitation. Managed by the Symbiosis project management team and guided by an expert Advisory Board, the project aims at securing relevant, high-quality outcomes. Regular interactions with relevant Commission entities (DG ENER and DG MARE), alongside collaboration with the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA), will ensure adherence to project’s key objectives.

Symbiosis project - activities

Defence and civilian user communities are established to comprehend and address obstacles to deploying offshore renewables. Conferences, involving these communities and the advisory board, aim to facilitate networking between MoDs and the civil sector while raising awareness of the project’s main scope and goals. To enable targeted discussions on the technical aspects of the project, regional workshops and ad-hoc expert meetings are planned. Through research, simulation-modelling, and evaluation-testing, the project, with an external contractor's support, will formulate regulatory, technological, and operational solutions addressing concerns in European maritime spaces.


On 1 October 2022, EDA launched the Symbiosis – Offshore Renewable Energy for Defence project, which will run for 30 months. Its name signifies the mutually beneficial relationship between the interdependent civilian and military sectors, enabling co-existence. The Symbiosis project builds on the extensive work carried out as part of the Consultation Forum for Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector (CF SEDSS) - a Commission-funded initiative managed by EDA since 2015.

symbiosis 2

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