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What Makes Military Colleges Different
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Annual Conference hears inspiring panel discussions

EDA News - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 17:48

Following the various keynote speeches (see other related news on the opening speeches, the ministerial debate as well as the fire side chat with EIB Vice-President Kris Peeters), attendees of EDA's Annual Conference on 7 December also enjoyed two lively, interactive and highly interesting panel debates, each of them focusing on a specific aspects of defence innovation.

Moderated by EDA Deputy Chief Executive Olli Ruutu, the first panel entitled ‘How to foster defence innovation? featured Emmanuel Chiva, Executive Director of the French Defence Innovation Agency (AID), Vice Admiral Louise K. Dedichen, Norwegian Military Representative to NATO, Timo Pesonen, Director General of DG DEFIS at the European Commission, Kusti Salm, Permanent Secretary at the Estonian Ministry of Defence, and David van Weel, Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO. In this panel, representatives of national governments and European institutions discussed the potential and requirements for greater innovation in European armed forces, from new technologies, concepts and processes to doctrines and decisions.   

“Political will is paramount” for bringing defence innovation forward at a time when we are entering a new era where we have “new battlefields” with space, cyber warfare, new materials, information manipulation, etc. and where we will see “technological disruption that will foster strategic disruption”, said Emmanuel Chiva.  From its creation in September 2018, the French Defence Innovation Agency has worked to support the French Armed Forces in this respect launching “more than 1,100” innovation projects over the first three years. As part of it, a Defence Innovation Lab was put in place to be able to challenge the start-ups and SMEs and the wider civilian eco-system. “You need to work with them, the smaller ones, but you also need to work with the larger companies because the innovations put forward by the start-ups need to be integrated in existing operational systems”, Mr Chiva stressed. The French Defence Agency also set up a “unique point of entry“ or “one-stop-shop” for all defence innovators, especially the new and small ones for which it is very important to make thing simple because they don’t know how a Ministry of Defence works.  Working on national levels is good, but “now we need to move to a European level because the size of our Member States is nothing compared to Russia or China: “The idea is to spread this philosophy throughout Europe and benefit from European synergies (…) this is a collective mission”. All of this needs to be done in coordination with NATO’s efforts in this domain: “The objective is not to compete, but to complete”.

Norway is active in defence innovation at various levels, explained Vice-Admiral Louise K.Dedichen; at NATO (through the NATO Science Technology Organisation, STO), by participating in projects at the European Defence Agency (with whom it has signed an Administrative Agreement), through the European Defence Fund and through cooperation directly with Allies. Norway also joined NATO's Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (or DIANA) and is also considering to join NATO’s Innovation Fund, she said. On a European level, Norway participated and financed EDA’s Joint Investment Programme on CBRN where artificial intelligence is used in sensor technologies for detecting, for instance, biological threats: “This demonstrates that Norway has succeeded in its strategy to invest in defence research and development through EDA”. As regards the European Defence Fund, Norway contributes with 200 million to the EDF budget with no return guarantee, the Vice-Admiral said.

Timo Pesonen said the European Commission’s main instrument for supporting defence innovation was the European Defence Fund (EDF), which became operational this year. Even before that, through the EDF’s precursor programmes - the Pilot Project on Defence Research, the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), and the European Defence Industrial Programme (EDIDP) - the Commission has already actively supported defence innovation in the past few years. “We will continue on this part, and with the EDF we intend to spend around 150 million euros per year on defence innovation”, he said. This will be done in different ways. First, the Commission will continue to issue calls for proposals on disruptive technologies. “Up to 8% of the total EDF will allocated to this”, the Director General said. Second, from next year onwards, the Commission will also organise technological challenges, similar to those organised in the US. Third, the Commission adopted this year the Action Plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries. Fourth, the Commission will support cross-border innovation networks and will test the relevance of technologies from the civil sector and spin them into defence. Fifth, innovation often lies within SMEs. “Therefore we will continue our special support to SMEs through the EDF (…) we have to make sure SMEs find their place in the supply chains of major defence programmes”. Sixth, the Space directorate of DG DEFIS has initiated specific actions to promote innovation in the space domain, with obvious benefits for defence too. “Last but not least, we will use new, innovative forms of funding”, including the usage of lump sums for project funding to reduce red tape, Mr Pesonen said. Of course, those Commission activities must be complementary to what other actors do in this field, including EDA. “We can only succeed if we do it together”, he said.

What sparks defence innovation in Estonia, was Kusti Salm asked. "There is no black magic", he said some very “basic things”. “Necessity, to start with. Estonia is a small country with very limited resources, and even now, everything is measured against these two parameters. We need to find solution with less resources”, he said. As an example, he mentioned the efforts put by the Estonian Ministry of Defence in developing and using unmanned ground systems for taking over military tasks, especially logistics tasks. “This has been identified by Estonia as a way to save people and increase war-fighting power”, he said, adding that this technology can then be linked to other platforms. The naval domain is another example. “In 10-15 years, Estonia needs to replace its fleet. Challenges at sea are growing fast, faster than our financial and staff resources. So we will look at unmanned systems and use modularity” to find innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions, Mr Salm Stated. “So, we are actively seeking in two areas: one is unmanned capabilities, and the other one is modularity. The idea is that we can spread out to a number of smaller ships the technologies that would otherwise mounted on our large frigates”.  He also insisted on the importance of decentralisation for triggering innovation, as most innovations come from bottom-up. “For that we need to be ready to take risks and to also accept failure from time to time”, he said.

NATO’s work on emerging disruptive technologies (EDTs) went through three action-phases, namely “identify, understand, act”, said Mr van Weel. That’s the framework in which NATO works on EDTs, and which has already resulted in two specific strategies adopted last October: the Artificial Intelligence (AI) strategy and the strategy on data exploitation policy. NATO’s core instruments for promoting innovation are the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (or DIANA) and the NATO’s Innovation Fund. “DIANA will have small offices on both sides of the Atlantic, connecting both sides’ ecosystems but also the funding, and using existing accelerators and testing sites already existing in the nations”, explained Mr van Weel. The NATO Innovation Fund, for its part, will help to bridge the financing gap many innovative ideas face in their development process (“valley of death”). “The Fund, which will total 1 billion euros, will do these early seed investments in promising dual-use technologies which either come through the DIANA accelerator programme or are being brought up by nations that are participating in the Fund as being promising for the defence sector”. The hope is that both DIANA and the Fund will be launched at the next NATO summit to take place in Madrid next June, Mr van Weel said. He also insisted on the importance of innovation regulation and standardisation. The military needs to pay more attention to this than in the past when we left this to the civil innovators and market. “We need to be ahead of the curve in this domain”, said Mr van Weel.

Industry panel


The second panel, moderated by Pieter Taal (EDA Head of Unit Industry Strategy and EU Policies), was entitled Innovation capacity of the European defence industry and featured Peppas Antonios (CEO ETME), Domitilla Benigni (CEO and COO of Elettronica), Hervé Dammann (Senior Vice-President Europe, Thales) as well as Jan Pie (Secretary General, Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, ASD). The panel discussed how the industry is adapting to the new defence innovation environment which is increasingly based on synergies between the Ministries and Defence with the civil sector, and what the current and future challenges and opportunities are for the industry.

Tremendous technological changes and developments have been witnessed in the defence sector in recent times and most, if not all, innovations that pushed those developments are driven by the commercial market, said Jan Pie. Hence the need to manage the spin-in process of those civil innovations into the military domain “which is much easier said than done”, especially because the requirements in the defence sector are different from those in the civil domain. That being said, commercial innovations on their own will not be enough to secure our Armed Forces’ technological superiority in the future. “We will also have to continue to need develop defence-specific technologies as well”, he stressed. The Commission’s Action Plan on synergies between the civil, defence and space industries is a step in the right direction but “we need a systematic approach” to implement the action plan and to actually create these synergies, Mr Pie stated. Furthermore, synergies can never replace the existing investment plans in Member States which should not be dropped because of synergy expectations that will only materialise in the future.

Domitilla Benigni agreed that the relationship between innovation and defence has changed over the years, “but what has most changed is the speed by which innovation occurs, and also where the innovation coming from”, namely from the civil sector “which is clearly leading”. Only collaborative initiatives such as the proposed future EDA Defence Innovation Hub, Nato’s DIANA programme and the Nato Defence Innovation Fund can allow the innovation coming from start-ups and SME to break through and reach a higher level, she thought. It will require good-will and efforts from both sides, however. “If the introduction of civil innovation in defence has to be successful, both sides need to act. The defence sector musty be ready to accommodate the new civil technologies in its systems, but on the other side, the civil innovators should be ready to include into their own products the military requirements that are important for defence. Otherwise, this mix and collaboration will not succeed”.

For Peppas Antonios, the speed of innovative change is indeed of the essence: “The name of the game is how to marry the speed of civil innovation with the long processes still being used in the Ministries of Defence”, he said. Everybody, innovators and military end-users, have to move “out of their comfort zones”: SMEs and start-ups have to understand, have to change, have to adopt new processes and learn from the prime defence companies. On the other hand, the primes have to learn from the more agile civil companies, SME and start-ups”, Mr Antonios said.

Hervé Dammann insisted on the “continuous efforts” needed in terms of investment to bring innovation forward. There is also a human dimension: “we need to be able to attract the best talents”, he said, referring to a “war of talents” on the labour market where a new awareness must be raised that working for a defence or dual-use company is a good thing, a good job, he said. The importance of start-ups and SME and their role in the defence supply chain cannot be over-estimated, said Mr Dammann as cooperation with them has become indispensable: “We could not do otherwise”. However, it is important they specialise on very specific domains needed for defence, he stressed.




Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Focus on Defence Innovation: our new magazine is out! ​

EDA News - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 11:12

The latest European Defence Matters magazine (N°22) is now available, with a special focus on Innovation in Defence. The magazine also features exclusive Opinion Editorials by Slovenian Defence Minister, Matej Tonin, and the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Kris Peeters, as well as an interview with the departing Chairman of the EU Military Committee, General Claudio Graziano. Our bi-annual publication also comes with a richly illustrated article about BISON COUNTER 21, Europe’s largest and most relevant counter-IED exercise which recently took place in Sardinia, Italy.

You can read the new magazine in PDF or in a slightly shorter digital format.

In the magazine’s cover story, we put the spotlight on a (non-exhaustive) list of technologies our in-house experts think will have the biggest impact on defence in the future; we also briefly present the work the European Defence Agency, as the EU hub for collaborative defence innovation, research and capability development, is already delivering in those domains. We also look at other innovative trends in defence, give the floor to innovation experts to develop on those ‘non-tech’ aspects and ask defence innovators from some of our Member States - France, the Netherlands and Estonia - about their specific national approaches and experiences. EDA’s efforts to promote innovation are also looked at through articles on the Agency’s recent technology foresight exercise as well as this year’s EDA Defence Innovation Prize.

Beyond the cover story, we also sat down for an exciting ‘legacy interview’ with General Claudio Graziano whose mandate as Chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUIMC), the EU’s highest military body, will end in May 2022 after more than three years. Two inspiring and informative guest articles delivered by Slovenian Defence Minister Tonin and EIB Vice-President Peeters  - the first on EU defence cooperation under the Slovenian EU Presidency, and the second one on the importance of ensuring that Europe’s dual-use industry has adequate access to finance - also provide for an interesting read.

Have a look immediately – and enjoy!

More information:
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The Most Popular US Military Colleges - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:15

The Most Popular US Military Colleges
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UNITED STATES/KAZAKHSTAN/FRANCE : Chase for fallen Ablyazov clan's assets takes Kazakhstan to Courchevel

Intelligence Online - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:00
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ISRAEL/EUROPE : Israeli cyber industry sets up shop in Vilnius

Intelligence Online - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:00
Rytis Rainys, the head of Lithuania's National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), profited from his attendance at Innotech, the Israeli internal
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KAZAKHSTAN/EUROPE : Kazakhstan's green energy opportunities lure major European groups

Intelligence Online - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:00
As well a engaging in a string of worthwhile political talks, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev used his time in Brussels
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BELARUS/LITHUANIA/UNITED STATES : NATO outpost Vilnius chagrined over loss of its Belarusan potash business

Intelligence Online - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:00
Although the sanctions decided by the United States at the end of June in coordination with the European Union and
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FRANCE : Possible sale of majority stake in ADIT whets appetites

Intelligence Online - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:00
With Parquest Capital, the main shareholder in French corporate intelligence group ADIT, set to sell off its stake next year, according
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UNITED STATES/LEBANON : How CT Group is helping Bahaa Hariri's anti-Hezbollah drive in Washington

Intelligence Online - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 08:00
Having unofficially launched a campaign for office in Lebanon, where last month his group Sawa li Lubnan ("Together for Lebanon")
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Lynx CSV - Wed, 08/12/2021 - 06:15

German Lynx CSV Armored Repair and Recovery Vehicle
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Annual Conference closes with call to boost defence innovation

EDA News - Tue, 07/12/2021 - 17:18

EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý closed the Agency’s 2021 Annual Conference devoted to ‘Innovation in European Defence’ with a call for Member States, and Europe as a whole, to invest more and better in defence innovation “and to do it together”, reflecting a general assessment expressed throughout the conference.

He also expressed the hope that 2022 will become “the year of European defence” and that Europe will take further decisive action to live up to its defence aspirations, also with respect to innovation. “The choice is clear”, he said repeating what many speakers and panelists expressed throughout the day: “Either we innovate in defence or we will become defence irrelevant”.

Main takeaways

Mr Šedivý singled out a number of commonalities expressed during the conference which could serve as the main takeaways of today's event, such as:

  • in terms of defence innovation, Europe is clearly stagnating vis-a-vis its main competitors, especially the US but also other global powers. This widening gap could, at some point, put at risk Europe’s interoperability with its partners;
  • to catch up, Europe needs to be open to partners both in Europe and outside, also across the Atlantic: “We need complementarity with NATO rather than competition. Openness also means a readiness to work with civil industry, SMEs and start ups;
  • to boost innovation, there is a need for cultural change and a change of mindset throughout Europe’s Ministries of Defence, including a tolerance for failure;
  • the final test of European defence innovation will be in its operational output, i.e. the capacity to deliver usable high-end capabilities that are needed by our Armed Forces;
  • Europe’s defence relevance will also stand or fall with the robustness, resilience and competitiveness of its defence industrial and technological base, including the security of supply chain;
  • EDA’s role in innovation is unique because, under the same roof, it deals with capability prioritisation and development, research and development, industrial synergies and civil-military cooperation as well as support to PESCO, CARD and the EDF. “Innovation is in the Agency’s DNA since its very start”; now, it is the time to use its expertise and experience to bring defence innovation forward in Europe.

EIB Vice-President Kris Peeters: “Hope that next year will be the year of defence”

Conference attendees also witnessed an interesting fire side chat with Kris Peeters, the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) Vice-President. He recalled the Bank’s decision, back in 2017, to launch the ‘European Security Initiative’ with a budget of 6 billion euros of which, so far, 4 billion have already been invested in dual-use projects benefiting to security and defence. 47% of those 4 billion euros have gone into innovation, Mr Peeters said, stressing that the funding was allocated as loans to both Member States and private companies (including start-ups) as well. Even though security and defence are still “sensitive” topics at the EIB which, as a European organisation, “is defending European values”, one should not forget that against the backdrop of increasing threats everywhere, “security and defence are also important values for European citizens”. “If we don’t invest in this sector, we cannot talk about European strategic autonomy, sovereignty or resilience. We must not be naive”, he said. There is a “momentum” to push for more investments in security “and I hope that next year, 2022, will be the year of defence”.

EUMC Chair Graziano: Innovation must respond to military needs

Previously, addressing the Annual Conference for a last time in his capacity of EU Military Committee Chairman, departing General Claudio Graziano, whose mandate will expire end in May 2022 after more than three years, said that European Defence were at an “historical moment with wind of change blowing from everywhere”. Now is the moment for Europe to show “assertiveness and the capacity to adapt” if it wants to play a “responsible role for a sustainable future”: “Either we succeed as a group, or we all fail as a group”. The upcoming Strategic Compass offers the EU an opportunity for aligning its defence tools, also financial, and consolidating its role as a global security provider, the General stated: “If we miss this train of credibility, I’m afraid it will be long before we catch another one, if any at all”. Innovation in defence is of course a key part of this endeavour because it is an indispensable path for Europe towards achieving operation superiority and being able to project power, rapidly and effectively.  “In this context, the EU Rapid Deployment Capacity is not just the most tangible sign of a renewed EU commitment, but also a clear demonstration that the EU understands the winds of change”, he said. The defence industry and, in general, Europe’s defence industrial and technological base will be crucial for Europe’s future defence posture. “At the same time, the defence industry can only succeed of it is not undermined by other EU policies such as the possible extension of the EU sustainability taxonomy to social aspects, inter alia. One must be wary of that!”, Mr Graziano stressed. He also called for making sure that defence innovation is driven by the operational needs and requirements of the Armed Forces on the ground; the end-users’ perspective must always be decisive and guide innovation, he said.



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EDA Defence Innovation Prize 2021 winners revealed

EDA News - Tue, 07/12/2021 - 15:15

During its Annual Conference, EDA also announced the two winners of the 2021 EDA Defence Innovation Prize. Launched in March, this year’s contest looked for the most innovative ideas, technologies and solutions related to Human-Machine Interfaces enabling Human-Machine-Teaming for Defence. After a thorough assessment of all applications received, the jury decided to announce two winners, each of whom is rewarded with €30,000.


The first of the two winning projects is called ASTARTES (Air Superiority Tactical Assistance Real-Time Execution System) and was proposed by Design AI, a German deep tech start-up specialized in Artificial Intelligence.

Frederik Mattwich, the company’s co-founder and Chief Technical Officer (CTO), explains his team’s winning project as follows:

“Supporting human pilots with their tactical decision-making speed is an expected future role of Artificial Intelligence (AI). In order to overcome the ethical and technical challenges such an AI assistance system poses, many steps will be necessary to gain confidence and understanding of how AI decisions are made. We have identified one such step which is scientifically reproducing the published results from Google Deepmind’s AlphaStar. A planned next step is to transfer the results from a reproduced AlphaStar to ‘Command:Professional Edition’ which is used (among others) to teach air combat tactics in the German Officer Academy in Fürstenfeldbruck. Through this serious gaming approach, ASTARTES aims to visualise AI assisted tactical decisions and thus make it transparent as well as explainable, and also to facilitate its evaluation from a military personnel perspective. It will be essential for all stakeholders to understand the strengths and, most importantly, the drawbacks and limitations of AI in the context of military applications. Our overall vision for ASTARTES is the development of a digital (super) human-level AI assistance system, which will combine the data from all platforms and provide real time tactical support to a human commander in every situation, reduce his workload in the NGWS (Next-Generation Weapon System) context and speed up the OODA loop (observe–orient–decide–act) drastically. The AI is planned to potentially also support pilot training in an Live-Virtual-Constructive context as well as tactical scenario analysis”.


The second of the two winning projects is called COMBI (Bidirectional Communicator) and was proposed by Thales, a global high technology company active, among others, in digital and “deep tech” innovations.

Marc Gatti, Human Autonomy Teaming (HAT) Department Director at Thales AVS/DMS France, explains his team’s winning project as follows:

 “COMBI is a high-level operator ‘intentions’ translator from and to operator to and from plural intelligent systems within his working area.

The future of defence operations are expected to become even more complex. A similar mission to one carried out today will include several intelligent systems that combine the operator’s platform with those controlled remotely (teammates, drones, etc.). A more complex environment will not only increase the operator’s workload but also further distance from him to the vital decision-making process. Genuine collaborative work (from a human point of view) between humans and intelligent systems will be a game changer for future defence operations whatever the environment: ground, sea, sky or space.  Classically, the distribution of roles between human and artificial agent is called "authority sharing". It is limited to the analysis of the tasks to be performed (task analysis) and to the development of related autonomous functions. The operator is then responsible for adapting this assistance, to meet the technical parameters for carrying out the mission. However, authority sharing is not enough to tackle complex future defense missions (time consuming and technical skills). The collaboration level between human and artificial agents should be increased and this is the objective of the Human-Autonomy Teaming (HAT) concept. One of the most important characteristics of HAT is efficient dialogue between participants. This is the way to establish a shared representation of the situation to reduce misunderstandings and improve decision-making. However, the way dialogue is performed depends on the situation. To reduce the cognitive workload of managing complex systems, the communication level must be conducted at a high level of abstraction.

COMBI is composed of: - a top-down transfer function that translates pilot's high-level intentions into intelligible parameters for the solvers, optimizing their treatment; - and a bottom-up transfer function that translates solver results into the high-level pilot referential operational intentions and parameters”.

About the winners

Design AI GmbH is a German deep tech start-up specialized in Artificial Intelligence. It focuses on bringing state-of-the-art innovations from AI research to the industry in the areas of Reinforcement Learning, Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing, Business Intelligence and Predictive Analytics. It manages to bridge the gap between user-centered concept development and agile research and development of AI systems, especially through the combination of Design Thinking and Artificial Intelligence. Experienced in various industries, the company is focused on the defence sector, where it successfully brings state-of-the-art AI into the field of mission planning and execution.

Thales is a global high technology leader investing in digital and “deep tech” innovations: connectivity, big data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and quantum technology. The company provides solutions, services and products that help its customers (businesses, organisations and states) in the defence, aeronautics, space, transportation and digital identity and security markets to fulfil their critical missions, by placing humans at the heart of the decision-making process.  In the field of aeronautics, Thales supports aircraft manufacturers, armed forces, airlines, operators, pilots, crews and passengers in making improvements to flight efficiency, safety and comfort. The secure, natively connected systems that Thales designs allow aircraft, helicopters and drones to fly under all conditions and to interface with all parts of the aeronautical ecosystem, on the ground or in flight.

About the EDA Defence Innovation Prize

The award, organised by EDA since 2018, aims to stimulate defence technological innovation in Europe, in particular by reaching out to non-defence R&T communities and innovators set to play an ever-bigger role in developing and producing Europe’s future defence capabilities. It is also meant to provide non-traditional defence stakeholders (civil industries, SMEs, research organisations, universities, etc.) with an opportunity to showcase their know-how in domains relevant for defence, maximize dual-use synergies and engage in partnerships with the defence sector.

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Ministers call for innovation cooperation, warn against duplication

EDA News - Tue, 07/12/2021 - 13:00

Following the opening speeches by Head of Agency HR/VP Borrell and European Council President Michel (see previous news), EDA’s Annual Conference 2021 continued on 7 December with a first high-level conference panel moderated by EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý and featuring no less than three Defence Ministers: Belgium’s Ludivine Dedonder, Slovenia’s Matej Tonin, and Poland’s Marcin Ociepa (Deputy Defence Minister).  

Belgian Minister Ludivine Dedonder said defence innovation should have three main characteristics: “It should be collaborative, capability-driven and, at the same time, adaptive and continuous”. Collaboration is crucial especially for countries of moderate sizes such as Belgium because for them, it is not possible to analyse, evaluate, develop and finance all new defence innovations on their own, the Minister stressed. At the same time, avoiding duplication is also imperative “because we cannot afford to finance duplicative programmes”.  Innovation must remain capability-driven, she added, “as one of its goals is to deliver top-notch military capabilities in support of the security and defence policies of our nations and the EU”. And it must be constantly adapted to the changing operational needs of the Armed Forces, Ms Dedonder insisted. EDA has a pivotal role to play “as it brings together research, technology watch, innovation, capability development and wider links with industry”. Creating synergies with other actors, including NATO, is also a role the Agency can take on, avoiding unnecessary duplication, the Belgian Minister said. “Innovation is key to make our Armed Forces more robust, more resilient, more agile and more precise in their engagements. In short: to build a better European military instrument of power”, she concluded.

Slovenian Minister Matej Tonin said that for ensuring its strategic autonomy and upholding the credibility of its security and defence policy, Europe needs “fresh, cutting-edge ideas and innovative thinking” in order to be able to face today’s new threats and keep up with the technological developments that are driving both the civil and military world. “In this respect, I want to put a special emphasis on the small and medium-sized enterprises, the SME’s, which can be vehicles for development because they are able to adapt and respond rapidly to innovative ideas”, he stressed.  Mr Tonin also underlined the need for Europe to cooperate also with its allies, especially NATO.   He expressed Slovenia’s support and appreciation for NATO’s work, especially the recent efforts to establish a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) and a NATO innovation Fund, stressing the need of avoiding duplication with those initiatives. Creating a European Defence Innovation Hub within EDA is “a step in the right direction”, the Minister said, “but it should not create additional layers of administrative and financial burden” for Member States: “Complementarity and non-duplication between the EU and NATO are key”.

The Polish Deputy Minister, Marcin Ociepa, called on Europe and its Member States to be “open” to all types of stakeholders and innovation players, inside and outside Europe, “because the broad spectrum of threats and challenges today requires a broad-spectrum response”. “We are all witnessing today the power and unpredictability of hybrid warfare. Therefore it is crucial to enhance cooperation on developing creative and innovative defence capabilities to protect our citizens, borders and values”. In this respect, the technological independence of Europe is of great importance, Mr Ociepa pursued: “By all means, we should continue to develop the mechanisms facilitating the cooperation and protecting the European innovations and technologies. We cannot, however, curb the collaboration opportunities with other like-minded partners such the US, South Korea, Japan, Australia to just name a few (…) we all face the same challenges and threats. Defence innovation is a team game”. We also have to invest in defence innovation, “but in a smart manner”, the Deputy Minister said: “Increasing our defence budgets is not always the only answer. We have to make sure that each and every mechanism is complementary and coherent with existing EU funding instruments, namely the European Defence Fund, Horizon Europe or the European Innovation Council. We cannot afford to duplicate our efforts”. With NATO doing its work through the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) and a NATO innovation Fund, “EDA, as the potential host of the European Defence Innovation Hub, could and should facilitate EU-NATO cooperation in this domain and create interlinks between the instruments of both organisations”. And Mr Ociepa to conclude: “You can count on our support on this and on other topics”.  

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Annual Conference discussed Defence Innovation

EDA News - Tue, 07/12/2021 - 11:02

The European Defence Agency’s Annual Conference 2021 entitled 'Innovation in European Defence’ was opened on 7 December with speeches by the Head of the Agency, HR/VP Josep Borrell, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. With Covid still around, this year’s conference was held in hybrid format with a vast audience representing the whole European defence spectrum (governments, armed forces, industry, EU institutions, NATO, think tanks and media) either connected remotely or physically present to listen to speeches and panel discussions and also actively take part in debates through Q&A sessions. 

Following a brief welcome word by EDA Chief Executive Jiří Šedivý, it was up to the Head of Agency, HR/VP Josep Borrell, to formally open the conference. In his opening speech, Mr Borrell expressed gratitude for this year’s choice of the conference theme because, he said, “our collective ability to innovate, both at EU and at national level, will determine the position of the EU on the global stage in the years to come”. However, the current situation leaves room for improvement as the EU and its Member States need to do “much more” in this field: “We need to do much more together and we need to do it now. We cannot wait. The choice for the EU is simple but a crucial one: either we invest in defence innovation or we will become irrelevant!”.

Mr Borrell insisted on the strategic importance of innovation, not only as an accelerator of economic competition but also as a key tool in the global competition that re-structures the international security environment. “Today, innovation is front and centre in the global strategic competition because it will restructure the international security environment (…) Those who gain a technological edge and set the standards today will dominate the future”, Mr Borrell said. This is also the case at the military level, with emerging disruptive technologies (EDTs), such as Artificial Intelligence. Often dual-natured, impacting both civilian and military domains, such technologies have the potential to alter the character of warfare, he explained: “To retain an edge over competitors and potential adversaries, we must use the potential of emerging technologies and develop high-end capabilities to equip our military forces across the full spectrum”.

“EU and Member States need to do more, together”

Being at the forefront of defence innovation requires that Armed Forces and Ministries of Defence have close cooperation with the civil sector which nowadays is driving both pure technological innovations and innovative uses: “With the rapid development of new technologies in the civilian sphere and their fast weaponization, today, more than ever before, innovation is shaping the global balance of power”

When comparing the EU and its Member States with other global actors, it is obvious Europe lags far behind in terms of investing in defence innovation, Mr Borrell said, “and the gap is widening”. For proof, “latest EDA data suggest that in 2020 EU Member States spent roughly €2.5 billion on Research & Technology – only 1,2% of the total defence expenditure, with a tendency for further decrease in the next two years, even though the related PESCO commitment sets the bar at 2% of the defence budgets”. Meanwhile, the US Department of Defence invests at least $14 billion each year in research and innovation, around 2% of the whole US defence budget, while Google spends on Research & Development almost 10 times more than what EU defence ministries spend together on Research & Technology. “We can no longer afford to sit on the side-line and watch the others doing. The EU and its Member States need to do much more on defence innovation. And they must do it more together”, he insisted. 

Towards a Defence Innovation Hub within EDA 

“EDA, as an intergovernmental Agency, has a crucial role to play in defence innovation” as technological innovation has been part of the Agency´s DNA since its creation in 2004, the Head of Agency pursued. Furthermore, there is the idea of establishing a Defence Innovation Hub within the Agency. “This is also one of the deliverables I have put forward in the context of the Strategic Compass”, said Mr Borrell: “By creating a network of defence innovation centres around Europe, this Defence Innovation Hub would promote synergies with the industrial sector; foster an ecosystem of Research & Development in defence and get innovative solutions closer to the military user. I hope this hub will soon be in place!”.      

And the Head of Agency to conclude: “Innovation in defence must be anchored in research & technology investments, but also in capability development, concepts and doctrines across all EU Member States (...) EDA is a great example of this integrated approach. Working together with the Commission and with Member States, EDA must ensure that defence innovation is not just an ambition on paper, but a reality!”.

Charles Michel: Support for Defence Innovation Hub within EDA


European Council President Charles Michel said in his keynote speech (via video message, see link above) that the EU’s strategic objective was to increase its ability “to act autonomously to safeguard our interests, uphold our values and way of life, and shape the global future”. “That’s why Europe’s strategic autonomy and our capacity to act alone, if so needed, is high on the agenda of the Heads of State and Governments. In this respect, the upcoming Strategic Compass is of utmost importance as he is meant to provide a vision for Europe’s security and defence policy in the future”, he said. Work on the Compass is progressing well, based on Mr Borrell’s initial proposal presented in November. Further input to the discussions is expected from the December European Council before EU leaders will then adopt the Strategic Compass in March when defence will again be a topic at the European Council.  

Europeans have also agree to work on a third EU-NATO declaration “because NATO is the cornerstone of Europe’s security and defence”, Mr Michel stated praising the “unique and essential cooperation” between the two organisations.  “We want to deepen this relationship and adapt it to today’s geo-political reality”, he said. However, Europe’s security and defence do not exist “in a vacuum” but are linked to its policies and achievements in other domains too, such as climate change or the digital transition. Through its regulatory power in those domains, Europe could strengthen its clout in the security domain too.  “We could take fuller advantage of our instruments if we used them in a more coordinated manner to achieve our strategic goals, for example in trade, development, neighborhood policy, climate policy, visa policy or humanitarian aid. Greater coordination means greater impact”“We, Europeans, must take our destiny in our own hands, cooperating with our partners when needed and acting autonomously when necessary, to be a credible and efficient global security provider and a soft geopolitical influencer”.

To achieve this, Europe needs more defence innovation, and EDA has a key role to play: “The next 10 years will be crucial for our capability development, and EDA has a unique role to play combining lessons learned from missions and long term technology trends and then integrating this concrete know-how into national defence plans (…) We must continue to link innovative technologies with their possible defence applications. And I know that we can count on you, the European Defence Agency and your unique experience and expertise. Your work is key to facilitating the uptake of defence innovation by our Member States”, Mr Michel stressed.  

And the President of the European Council to conclude: “We must also avoid duplication our efforts and wasting our resources. You, the EDA, can help link Member States’ national authorities with each other, and with EU institutions, agencies and bodies. You help identify defence-related technologies point to opportunities and provide a platform for cooperation. And you need a budget to fulfil your growing role. I am in favour of the creation of a European defence innovation network. I also support the creation of a European Defence Innovation Hub inside EDA”.

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