EDA Defence Ministers approved the establishment of HEDI within EDA on 17 May 2022 and the hub was officially launched at the first EDA Defence Innovation Day hosted by EDA on 31 May 2022 under the auspices of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

HEDI serves as a platform to stimulate and facilitate cooperation on defence innovation among Member States while ensuring synergies with related European Commission activities, notably the EU defence innovation scheme, coherence with NATO innovation initiatives, and other EU defence innovation organizations. The hub will strengthen the Agency’s existing innovation activities while also initiating new ones.

EDA Innovation Framework – Three Pillars

HEDI operates at the intersection of EDA’s existing innovation activities, serving as a catalyst and amplifier. HEDI’s activities will contribute to, and focus on, the agreed EU priorities for capability development (Capability Development Plan) and defence research (Overarching Strategic Research Agenda) as well as on skills, technologies, manufacturing capabilities (Key Strategic Activities).

The existing innovation framework in EDA contains tools to support collaborative defence innovation and is based on three pillars:

  • Identification of innovative ideas and innovators;
  • Implementation of these ideas;
  • Outreach to increase the awareness of the solutions produced and their application to the defence domain.

A step-by-step approach

Three steps have been defined for HEDI to grow to fulfil its potential:

  • The first step will inspire and promote innovation at the European level: the hub will focus on networking and situational awareness activities. It should be considered as a ramp-up phase, making the most of existing EDA resources;
  • The second step will allow the hub to be operational across all activities and services identified in the initial portfolio. This will set the hub at the heart of facilitating defence innovation across Member States and EU institutions;

The third step, HEDI 2.0, is proposed as a way to reach the full potential of the hub as an EU-wide platform for cooperative design and experimentation, embedded in the EU capability development process. It must be further defined and decided at a later stage.

Activities and Services of HEDI

The initial portfolio of the hub has been organised in six clusters:

  1. Common Picture:
    • The hub will contribute to creating a common picture of defence innovation, including but not limited to best practices, methodologies, experiences, lessons identified and learned, specific projects, initiatives, and state of play on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies. For this purpose, the hub will involve defence innovation experts from the Member States;
    • The hub will set up and support networks of defence innovation organisations and researchers who will be invited to exchange views on these topics once or twice a year. These exchanges will further support the professionalisation of defence innovation and scale up defence innovation activities across Europe. The activities within this cluster will be organised in cooperation with the European Commission.
  2. EDA Innovation Prize and RTI Papers Awards:
    • EDA Innovation Prize
      • Innovation prizes are a way to collect a pool of innovative ideas and solutions at all Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) to fill identified gaps and needs.
      • The winners of the prize are provided with seed funding to work on a plan for the development of their ideas towards proof-of-concept or demonstrators.
      • Although the innovation prize is an already established modus operandi at EDA, the establishment of the Hub will reinforce this activity not only by increasing the number of prizes awarded and the number of domains covered, but also by accelerating the uptake of innovation into capabilities.
      • Innovation prizes address the initial phase of innovation, when it is key to explore different technical solutions across the spectrum, from start-ups and SMEs to prime contractors.
    • Defence Research, Technology, and Innovation Papers Award
      • Through the “EDA Research, Technology and Innovation Papers Award 2023” contest, EDA aims to:
        • Promote and support the work of early career researchers (Research profiles descriptors, level R1 and level R2) by introducing their work to the defence community;
        • Stimulate engagement of innovators in order to accelerate access to emerging and potentially disruptive research;
        • Identify areas in which additional investment is needed to fully address future defence capability needs;
        • Identify different ways to cover current defence needs and gaps.
      • Participants to this call for papers would be requested to think “out of the box”.
  3. Innovation challenges:
    • Challenges and Hackathons are a specific R&T methodology targeting short cycles of development from proof-of-principle to minimum viable product. These methodologies have proved effective in attracting non-traditional defence players due to their short, and focused, nature and their lower initial threshold of access.
    • The hub, in cooperation with partners, will select innovations suitable for this approach based on outcomes of other activities (e.g. innovation prizes) or specific capability gaps identified by Member States.
    • The Hub will be able to design, oversee, and manage in-the-field experimentation of solutions and ideas.
  4. Proof-of-concept/demonstrators:
    • Making use of EDA flexible contractual framework and selecting the most suitable funding stream (e.g. EDA Operational Budget, EDA ad-hoc projects and programmes), the hub will advance the development of the technologies that show the most potential in performance and receive the most support from potential users.
    • The call for proposals organised under the hub and funded through the EDA Operational Budget, will be published on the procurement page of EDA.
  5. European defence innovation shows:
    • An important dimension in the innovation funnel is a platform to increase awareness about the European defence innovation ecosystem, disseminate project results and connect stakeholders;
    • The hub will organise yearly a series of shows combining exhibitions and projects outcomes, conferences, panel discussions and prize awards;
    • The programme of the show will be prepared by the hub, selecting a core theme for the conference and panel discussions, and coordinating the logistics;
    • The exhibition area will be dedicated to showcasing the outcomes of cooperative and national defence innovation projects. 
  6. Uptake of innovation:
    • To ensure a coordinated uptake of innovation into capabilities, taking into account multiple dimensions towards an initial operational capability (IOC), the hub will explore the potential to apply methods such as the concept, development, experimentation and concurrent design, based on participating Member States’ priorities.
    • More information to come.