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Defence and security: strengthen your opportunities

Written by Miriam Newman-Tancredi on 21 May 2019

The EU is proposing a €13bn budget for defence and security R&D - and it provides opportunities and proposals specifically for SMEs

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The EU wants to encourage more co-operation between countries in the field of defence and security. It is  proposing a budget of €13bn for R&D from 2021 to 2027 under the European Defence Fund. Funding is offered through a co-financing approach with European governments, covering up to 100 per cent of eligible costs.


Opportunities are being provided specifically for SMEs as a proportion of the budget. Some project categories will focus solely on consortia of SMEs. The first calls for proposals are expected in January 2021 but in the interim other opportunities are currently available.


The Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) has a budget of €90m for 2017 to 2019. This is distributed in the form of grants, the bulk of which supports small R&T programmes. Ten new projects will be launched this year. It looks and feels like Horizon 2020, but is adapted to the specific needs and requirements of the defence sector and financial regulations, is grant-based and the IP rights are owned by the participants. The 2019 work programmes are: critical defence technologies, future and emerging disruptive technologies, and standardisation and interoperability. They can be searched on the EU Funding & Tenders Portal.


OCEAN2020: co-operation in maritime surveillance


An example of defence co-operation funded under the PADR is OCEAN2020. This is a project exploring deeper integration of unmanned platforms in maritime surveillance missions. Launched last year, it will last three years and will receive an EU grant of approximately €35m. It consists of a consortium of 42 partners - 13 of which are SMEs - from 15 European countries led by Leonardo.


The United Kingdom is represented in OCEAN2020 by QinetiQ, contributing its expertise in the command and control of multiple autonomous vehicles, and two UK SMEs: Autonaut provides its wave powered unmanned surface vehicle and Blue Bear Systems Research brings advanced autonomy software and their Blackstart unmanned air system. Both companies have benefited from EEN support in the past.


“SMEs bring in a lot of disruptive technologies and operate at a high level of contribution to the project,” says Daniele Frisoni, the OCEAN2020 Electronics Division Technical Head at Leonardo.


Involvement in a large multinational project such as OCEAN2020 does not only provide finance for a company's products and ideas; it provides powerful international promotion and consolidates partnerships with large corporates and government departments such as the Ministry of Defence.


A second opportunity is the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). This has a €500m budget for 2019-2020. It covers all domains - land, sea, air, cyber and space. It is mainly a co-funding scheme requiring two parallel contracts: a grant from the EU and a procurement contract. One specific category - innovative and future-orientated defence solutions - is dedicated to SMEs. This is an open and wide-ranging call with an information day for potential applicants on 22 May 2019 and a final date for submissions of 29 August 2019.


For support in identifying relevant business growth opportunities and writing grant applications, contact your local EEN adviser.