EU focuses R&D on counterterrorism

New research program gives the EU a larger agenda for developing security technologies

EU tests R&D projects

In March 2004, the European Union launched a small-scale, three-year program to learn what resources would be needed for its 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development, which will run from 2007 through 2013.

With an annual budget of 15 million euros, or about $21 million, the test program funded 39 research projects focused on situational awareness, the security of networked systems, protection against terrorism, crisis management, and the interoperability of control and communications systems.

One project, Wireless Interoperability for Security, is exploring standardized frameworks for connecting disparate networks and software-defined radios. A consortium of 23 organizations from 12 countries supports the program.

Another project, Crisis Simulation System, is bringing together companies and research organizations to develop a 3-D tool that will help officials prepare for urban crises, such as terrorist attacks and hostage situations.

— Brian Robinson

Some member countries of the European Union have become experts in security techniques after living through decades of terrorism and border disputes. However, the EU has had almost no role in developing security technologies.

That situation is about to change.

Homeland security is a component of the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development, which runs from 2007 to 2013. For the first time, security has a prominent place in the EU’s technology research plans.

If the proposal is fully funded each year, the EU’s R&D program budget will include 1.4 billion euros — more than $2 billion — for security. That is 15 times the amount allocated in the previous budget. Because security research is also embedded in other areas of R&D, the total research budget for security could be substantially more, EU officials said.

The new R&D program represents an effort to align the organization’s security research program with the security R&D program run by separate EU nations.

Countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden already have extensive security R&D programs that are similar to the EU program’s guidelines.

“We do not want the incredible duplication of effort in other research sectors, and we do not want the low level of effectiveness we see in defense spending brought into this field,” Günter Verheugen, European commissioner for enterprise and industry, told attendees at the EU Security Research Conference in Berlin in March.

“We want value for money.”

Officials first raised the idea of a European Security Research and Innovation Forum to coordinate public and private ideas on security research at the Berlin conference and officially announced it in September.

The forum is expected to issue a Joint Security Research Agenda before the end of 2009.

The European Commission manages security research in the EU’s R&D program, said Tjien- Khoen Liem, acting head of the security R&D unit at the European Commission’s Directorate- General for Enterprise. That organization consults with EU countries through a program committee to set yearly research agendas.

The EU’s security program has two objectives, Liem said. One is to ensure a secure, safe and free Europe. The other is to improve the competitiveness of European industry through collaboration.

“The security research program will be one of a number of mutually reinforcing initiatives aimed at reducing the fragmented internal security market for equipment products and services,” Liem said.

The research done under the EU’s R&D program is not determined through competition, Liem said, and the implementation of research results in working systems and products occurs through a cooperative process managed by the European Commission.

“The agenda of security research is not driven by the interest for technology acquisition only,” Liem said. Research activities will include technology development, integration, demonstration and validation.

In line with what Liem called the EU’s multidisciplinary and mission-oriented approach, security research will focus on four major objectives:

  • Offering protection from terrorism and crime.

  • Securing infrastructures and utilities.

  • Securing borders.

  • Restoring borders in a crisis.

Europeans have a cooperative mindset toward security R&D. Describing Germany’s three-year plan to spend 123 million euros — $177 million — on security research, Wolf-Dieter Lukas, director general of Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research, said at a conference in March that Germany doesn’t want to develop security technologies in isolation.

Officials prefer a holistic approach to research, he said. “We’re open to cooperation with companies from other EU and non-EU countries.”

In unveiling the United Kingdom’s Home Office’s Security and Counter-Terrorism Science and Innovation strategy in June, Paul Wiles, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said that strategy is based on collaboration with allies such as the EU and the United States.

The EU/United States security research connections at the national level have expanded, and the few countries that have their own research programs have bilateral agreements with the United States.

In 2004, for example, the United States and the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of agreement that allows for close collaboration on R&D projects, including the exchange of information and research experts and use of each other’s research, development, testing and evaluation capabilities.

Liem said the EU has intensified its discussions with the United States on security research. Officials have held several high-level meetings this year in the EU and Washington to discuss cooperation between the European Commission’s security research program and the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate.  

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


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