A two-step approach was proposed, involving:
- an initial test period under the 2014-2020 multi-annual financial framework during which a Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) supports collaborative defence research, while the EDIDP co-finances collaborative development projects, and
- a dedicated European Defence Fund under the 2021-2027 multi-annual financial framework scaling up the funding for collaborative research in innovative defence products and technologies and for subsequent stages of the development cycle, including the development of prototypes. The legislative proposal for a regulation setting up the Fund was presented by the Commission in June 2018. It aims at fostering the competitiveness and innovativeness of the European defence technological and industrial base thereby contributing to the EU's strategic autonomy. It also aims to trigger cooperative programmes that would not happen without an EU contribution and, by supporting research and development activities, to provide the necessary incentives to boost cooperation at each stage of the industrial cycle.
The final decision on the setting up of the EDF was taken by the Council and the European Parliament in 2019/2020. The Fund started functioning on 1 January 2021 with a total agreed budget of €7.953 billion (in current prices) for the 2021-2027 period. Roughly one third will finance competitive and collaborative defence research projects, in particular through grants, and two-thirds will complement Member States' investment by co-financing the costs for defence capabilities development following the research stage.
EDA is involved in the European Defence Fund (EDF) at two levels:
In the preparatory work for the launch of the Fund on 1 January 2021, EDA is involved namely in the two precursor programmes which prepare the ground for the two EDF ‘dimensions’:
- the ‘research dimension’ where EDA is managing and implementing the European Commission’s Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) from 2017. The Agency does so on the basis of a Delegation Agreement signed with the European Commission in May 2017. The PADR was preceded by the Pilot Project (PP), the first EU-funded defence research activity, which was completed in 2019;
- the ‘capability dimension’ where the Agency contributed to the EDIDP work programme and supported Member States in preparing the projects they would later propose for EU financial support. In 2019, EDA has also set up an EDIDP/EDF ‘Marketplace’ to provide Member States with an informal framework for the preparation and consolidation of EDIDP/EDF projects. The Marketplace provides Member States with an opportunity to present and informally exchange on project proposals and ideas in view of the EDIDP/EDF calls.