The strategy for the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB), approved by Defence Ministers in May 2007, stressed that the future success of European Defence Industry would depend on effective utilisation of human capital and innovation wherever these are to be found in Europe, in SMEs and in suppliers not always associated with defence. Based on the EDA SMEs’ Guidelines and Action Plan, work is on-going on defence-related SMEs, focused on support measures in the area of access to markets, information and funding, defence R&T, cluster building and business innovation.
- Support the involvement of SMEs in the EDTIB;
- Raise awareness of business opportunities, identify and share Member States’ and industry’s best practice and lessons learnt on defence-related SMEs/clusters at European, regional and national level;
- Develop and implement, in close dialogue with EDA's stakeholders, policies and actions to support defence-related SMEs;
- Identify programmatic and funding tools of interest for defence-related SMEs/clusters.
EDA’s “Guidelines for facilitating SMEs’ access to the defence market”, approved in 2009 and revised in May 2015, provide recommendations to Member States on how to improve access by defence-related SMEs to information, defence procurement, supply chains and finance as well as to promote innovation and the competitiveness of SMEs. The first progress report on the implementation of the Guidelines was approved by the EDA Steering Board in December 2016.
A network of the Member States SME point of contacts has been established in order to promote and monitor the use and implementation of the guidelines and to discuss further policies and measures on SMEs.
In addition, an EDA SME Action Plan, approved by the EDA Steering Board in March 2013, addresses measures in support of defence-related SMEs. The main endorsed measures are:
- Increasing interaction with the European Commission's work on SMEs and clusters, with a focus on specific action to support defence-related SMEs and making best use of existing tools;
- Improving information sharing about business opportunities through the creation of an EDA forum/portal for defence-related SMEs;
- Supporting innovation through enhancing SME access to defence related research and technology by developing bridges between university research and SMEs;
- Enhancing defence SME market conditions through developing further the existent SME guidelines and MS/NDIA best practice;
- Facilitating efficient use of subcontracting provisions in the recent Defence and Security Procurement Directive, through sharing of best practice.
To implement the SME Action Plan, the Agency has launched the following initiatives:
- In June 2013, the Agency launched a new portal, Defence Procurement Gateway on its website dedicated to defence-related business opportunities and information. Through this single point SMEs can access defence procurement-related information and business opportunities both at the EU and national level;
- EDA organised and supported targeted workshops on European defence opportunities for SMEs;
- In order to promote greater innovation across the defence industry in Europe with a special focus on SMEs, EDA initiated activities to facilitate access to European Investment and Structural Funds (ESIF) for dual-use technology projects;
- As a part of the new market and industry approach, the EDA Supply Chain Action Plan (complementary to the work on SMEs) was approved by the EDA Steering Board in May 2014;
- EDA launched the SME Modeling & Simulation Platform (January 2016);
- EDA published a handbook for defence-related SMEs (March 2016)
- A SME Corner was created within the Defence Procurement Gateway (December 2016);
- The EDA Chief Executive appointed two EDA SME Senior Advisers in order to provide strategic advice and support to the Agency on policies and actions regarding SMEs;
- EDA conducted a study on defence-related SMEs’ composition in EU;
- EDA also enhanced its role in facilitating the defence-related SMEs’ access to EU tools (e.g. by developing the ESIF and COSME web-platforms in 2016/2017, liaising with the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) to increase participation of SMEs in EDA CapTechs).
In the broader context of support to defence industry EDA has developed initiatives that are also impacting SMEs such as Balanced Access to the EDTIB- Central and Eastern European countries and Access to EU Funding.
The implementation of the SME Action Plan is rolling, in close interaction with Member States, European Commission and industry.
In addition, based on the EU Global Strategy’s call for “a structured dialogue with industry” and given the evolving industrial and innovation landscape, EDA has recently reviewed it’s actions towards industry and developed an EDA Industry Engagement concept. The Steering Board in Ministers of Defence composition on 18 May 2017 supported EDA’s revised approach, recognising support to SMEs as one of the key areas of focus.