The project, promoted by the Croatian Ministry of Defence and actively supported by the European Defence Agency (EDA), is a milestone on the path towards EU-funded defence research and technology (R&T).

Up till then, only civil aspects of a dual-use project were eligible for ESIF funding. With the Croatian project, military implications have not only been tolerated but acknowledged as an added-value. As a result, defence applications are nowadays able to secure ESIF funding, in the same manner as civilian ones.

It is also a landmark in EDA’s longstanding efforts to open up EU funding opportunities for defence R&T. “The fact that the first defence project co-funded by the EU is run by a consortium itself led by a small and medium sized enterprise, is an important signal that Europe needs the full spectrum of research and industrial actors – large, medium-sized and small alike – to strengthen its defence industrial base. The Agency will continue to exploit the benefits of wider EU policies for defence stakeholders and facilitate their access to EU funding possibilities”, says Jorge Domecq, EDA’s Chief Executive.

Cyber Conflict Simulator

The Croatian €0.5 million project, 80% of which is funded by ESIF, aims at developing a cyber conflict simulator. “It all started in 2015 when Utilis and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing of Zagreb University got together to envision a Cyber Conflict Simulator - an advanced synthetic environment for Cyber Security/Defence training. The idea became reality and project was supported by the Croatian MoD and subsequently also by EDA. With their help, we applied for ESIF funding which was eventually granted.

The project implementation started in 2018 and should be accomplished by the end of 2020”, says Goran Polonji, co-founder and co-CEO (together with Zdenko Ćorić) of Utilis which was created in 2002 and today counts nine staff. The simulator is meant to be fit-forpurpose and usable by European Ministries of Defence straightaway, including in European and international military exercises. It will allow for multiple groups in different roles to collaborate within a defined cyber space, in order to address potential cybernetic attacks. “The Cyber Conflict Simulator will definitely help to improve the behaviour and reactivity of incident managers and decision makers in case of cyber attacks. It will also allow stakeholders to evaluate alternative scenarios of handling an incident so that best practices can be selected”, Mr Polonji explains.


> EDA is now looking forward to the application of other defence project proposals by Member States, industry, academia and research-and-technology organisations. To encourage, facilitate and guide them with best possible information, the Agency has set up two specific online tools:

  • ESIF web-platform:
  • ESIF Success Stories webpage: