Opportunities and challenges from the supply and demand sides
Two panel debates on the opportunities and challenges from the supply and demand sides respectively, both skillfully moderated by Graham Muir (Head of EDA's Strategy & Policy Unit), stood out as the most interactive part of this year’s conference as the audience made plenty
use of the opportunity to comment and ask questions to the panelists.
High-level panelists in the first roundtable (supply side) were Lowri Evans (Director General DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME's at the European Commission), Heikki Allonen (former CEO and President of Patria Oyj, the Finnish national defence induystry group), Dr. Kurt Braatz (Senior Vice President at Krauss-Maffei Wegman), Pedro Sinogas (CEO of Tekever) as well as Prof. Witold Holubowicz (CEO of research/consulting company Itti Ltd.). The panel raised and discussed a number of crucial questions related to the future of the European defence industry, such as 'Are Europe's defence industrial models suited for the future?', 'How best to bring innovation closer to defence?', 'Is enough being done to capitalise on civil and military synergies?' and 'What measures can the European Commission bring to
support innovation in defence?'.
A particular emphasis was put on how the role of SMEs and Start-Ups in the defence supply chain could best be maximised and how their full potential as a source of innovation and a key enabler for competitiveness can be realized. In this respect, the need was stressed to promote
SME's access to defence research pogrammes and to encourage their greater involvement in EU funding programmes.
The second panel debate (demand side) saw high-profile representatives from national governments and EU institutions sharing their views on implications for the defence sector at large: whole-of-government policies in support of strategic innovation, emerging risks and
vulnerabilities in terms of technology control, interface with industry, impact on acquisition choices and life-cycle management.
The four high-level panelists were: Ioan Mircea Paşcu (Vice-President of the European Parliament and former Defence minister of Romania), Rear Admiral Matteo Bisceglia (Director for Naval Armaments, Italy), Vice Admiral Mark Mellett (Chief of Defence, Ireland) and Alexander
Weis (Vice-Director of the Bundeswehr Planning Office, Germany, and former Chief Executive of the EDA).
Among the questions discussed were the following: 'Are the current procurement processes of Defence Ministries best adapted to the challenges and opportunities presented by innovation?', 'How important is continued and sustained national investment in research & innovation?', 'What do policy-makers need to do to provide the best possible environment to foster the technological innovations required?',
'How can Europe respond to the US Third Offset Strategy?' and 'How to overcome fragmentation of demand?'.
There was broad consensus on the EDA's role in defence R&T and innovation: the Agency should continue to act as a "catalyst" by identifying innovation gaps and potential collaborative opportunities, bringing interested Member States together and facilitating collaborative R&T projects. However, it was stressed, R&T initiatives need to be driven by capability requirements. The objective is not to fund industrial
policy, said Mr Weis. "The EDA has to make sure that R&T projects are capability driven, be it national or EU capabilities"