Therefore, EU Member States agreed in 2015 to progressively move from exclusively civilian and dual-use focused research (Horizon 2020) at EU level towards a dedicated European Defence Research Programme funded by the EU budget as of 2021, as part of the European Defence Fund (EDF).

EDA is crucially involved in all three steps of this process, namely:

  • Pilot Project on EU defence research. This first step was made when, based on a European Parliament initiative, the Council and the Parliament agreed to earmark expenditure for a defence-related research Pilot Project in the EU budgets 2015 and 2016. The Pilot Project was run and managed by EDA on behalf of the European Commission, based on a delegation agreement signed between the Agency and the Commission in November 2015. With a total budget of €1.4 million, it covered three specific topics: the development of unmanned heterogeneous swarm of sensor platforms; inside-building awareness and navigation for urban warfare; standardisation of detect-and-avoid systems for unmanned aerial vehicles UAV. The Pilot Project was crucial insofar as for the first time, it tested the conditions for defence research in an EU framework. It also paved the way for the next milestone on the road towards dedicated EU defence research: the launch of the European Commission’s Preparatory Action on Defence Research. 


  • Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR). Based on the Pilot Project experience, the PADR was launched by the European Commission in 2016 with one main objective in mind: to demonstrate the added-value of EU-funded research in the defence sector. With a budget of €90 over three years (2017-2019), the PADR was much bigger than the Pilot Project. The management of the programme was again entrusted to EDA by the European Commission through a delegation agreement signed in May 2017. Information on the various PADR projects launched is available here. The third and last round of project calls was issued in March 2019 in the three specific domains: Electromagnetic Spectrum Dominance, Future Disruptive Defence Technologies and Unmanned Systems. The selected projects of this final call, which have an average lifespan of two-to-three years, can be found here.


  • European Defence Fund (‘research dimension’). EDA is involved in its preparation through the afore-mentioned Preparatory Action on Defence Research which is the precursor programme for the future dedicated European Defence Research Programme launched in 2021 as part of the European Defence Fund.