Joint capability development
EDA is also involved in the EDF’s other preliminary programme known as the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), designed to support competitiveness and innovation across Europe’s defence sector. A two-year initiative (2019-2020) with a EUR 500 million budget, EDIDP supports joint development of defence equipment and technology in a wide range of cutting-edge defence technology domains including drone technology, satellite communication, early warning systems, artificial intelligence, cyber-defence or maritime surveillance.
In March 2019, the Commission published nine calls for proposals for 2019, with 12 further calls expected to follow in 2020. These calls cover priority areas in all domains – air, land, sea, cyber and space.
“EDA has an observer position vis-à-vis the EDIDP where our role is to provide views and expertise based on the agreed EU capability development priorities and the implementing Strategic Context Cases to ensure that the EDIDP’s funding goes towards filling the identified capability gaps and the provision of more coherence of the European capability landscape. In addition, upon request by Member States, EDA can provide support in its upstream role and conduct an assessment of the expected impact of specific projects,” said Franck Desit, the Deputy Director of EDA’s Capability, Armament and Planning Department. “The CDP and the EU Capability Priorities, after all, are the compass for EU-level defence initiatives.”
The bigger picture
As previously mentioned, PADR and the EDIDP are two sides of the same coin in that, together, they represent the test-bed for the future European Defence Fund. What exact role the Agency will have vis-à-vis the EDF remains to be determined.
On the research side of the equation, Mr Ripoche reckons there will not be a global delegation agreement similar to the PADR arrangement EDA signed with the Commission in 2017. “While we are ready and willing to provide support and avoid structure duplication, taking on responsibility for EUR 500 million worth just for the research dimension each year would probably be a huge scaleup for the Agency. But, clearly, there could be a project manager role for us, and that on various EDF research themes,” he said.
More important will be the Agency’s potential advisory role, both related to defence research and capability development. “Hopefully, we will capitalise on one of EDA’s traditional strengths: providing expert-driven upstream advice to Member States and making sure the funding goes to projects which are in line with the agreed European capability development priorities and thus really contribute to significantly impacting the coherence of the European capability landscape,” observed Mr Desit. EDA’s expertise will therefore be a key asset. “One lesson we’ve learnt from the Preparatory Action is that the better-structured projects are those where the requirements are tailored to Members States’ needs and benefits and the selection of proposals is based on the quality and expertise while looking for cross-border cooperation. Given its scale, that will be a challenge for the EDF,” added Mr Ripoche.
Another challenge will be to bring in a sufficient number of smaller companies and also to get the expected outcome from the projects. “We think the EDF’s rules of participation – and the money that will be available for them – will compel project leaders to reach across borders and find small and unconventional players. We’ve helped them to do that with the PADR projects, and this kind of things will grow in importance as the EDF gets underway,” said Mr Ripoche. “Above all, for successful implementation in defence you have to follow very closely the work of a given consortium, which is where EDA has long experience. You can’t just ‘fire-and-forget’ the project once a contract is signed”.
Bringing it all together
Whether it’s for research or capability development, however, a successful EU-funded defence project ultimately depends on the quality of its proposal and, just as important, the quality of its consortium – and there EDA has a couple of aces up its sleeve.
One is the Agency’s nascent tool, the so-called collaborative ‘marketplace’ whose aim is to provide Member States with a flexible, structured and transparent framework for sharing, on a voluntary basis, their ideas about potential projects in the context of EDIDP and the future EDF, and to look for mutual interests. Concretely, the marketplace intents to stimulate cooperative projects to meet Member States’ needs addressing the 2018 EU Capability Development Priorities, through clarification of projects’ content and building common understanding of Member States’ interest in the different proposals. It also aims at further developing the complementarity and synergies between CARD, PESCO and the EDF, based on the EU Capability Development Priorities and OSRA. Launched in 2019, the marketplace is implemented through a test phase approach focused on the second year of EDIDP and the first year of EDF. It will remain informal in nature with an objective to ensure transparency and sharing of information, not causing any distortion of competition.
“Basically, with the marketplace, Member States have the possibility to freely and informally exchange views on their projects and look for feedback from other Member States as well as EDA’s view on the project against the background of the European capability landscape.” explained Mr Desit.
EDA’s other ace is its long-standing “CapTech” community, a network of some 2500 technical experts linked to the EDA’s constituent ministries of defence. Currently divided into 12 different CapTech groups, each brings together Ministry officials and representatives from industry and academia to define the best kind of projects worth pursuing. Meeting three or four times a year, the groups rely on some 140 technology building blocks to guide their work, all of which links technological domains to the priorities of the Capability Development Plan.
Noting that the CapTechs teams have been around for years, Mr Ripoche said “this sort of thing is not built up quickly, but it is crucial because you ensure that way coherence between national and EU level. And when a Member State wants to involve its industry or academia in defence R&T to a larger scale, we always tell them: join the CapTechs! They are the first upstream point of contact.”