Some 70 security research stakeholders from Europe’s public and private sectors gathered in Brussels on 30 November to review the results of an independent evaluative study of the EU’s 2007-2013 Security Research (SR) programme. The mid-term assessment turned up a number of encouraging trends though it also stressed the need for faster funding of projects and better dissemination to end-users of their R&D results.
“The SR programme has been strongly coherent with the EU’s wider framework policy and appears to be boosting industrial competitiveness in the sector,” said Mike Coyne, whose London-based firm Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services (CSES), carried out the assessment.
“In general, monitoring of the projects [by the European Commission] is working well, but more should be done to promote the achievements of these projects,” he told the workshop. “It’s fine [for security research consortia] to produce long reports on the deliverables achieved, but they need to get the essential message out to stakeholders.”
So far, only eight EU member states – Austria, Germany, Finland, France, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the UK – have their own national security research programmes, though others are starting to move in that direction.
For example, Julio Martínez Meroño, who works for the Spanish Interior Ministry and chairs the Commission’s Security Advisory Group, said his country is now putting together its own national security research programme. “The fact that the EU has been doing this is very important because it helps member states structure and define their own national effort,” he told workshop participants.
Another positive factor confirmed by CSES’ evaluation is the high number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in the programme. “Access to funding was very much appreciated by the SMEs we interviewed. Many said their participation in research consortia offered ways to develop supply chain relationships as a route to the market,” said Coyne.
Some officials involved in their national security research singled out the advantages of working with SMEs. Heike Wagner, head of security research and counter-terrorism within the German Interior Ministry for the province of Brandenburg, said “we are very interested in working with SMEs because they are flexible and innovative. The bigger companies tend to be lame ducks: they are too slow to deliver us the solutions we need.”
But all is not perfect with the SR programme either. Reacting to the overall CSES findings, Meroño said two pressing changes are needed.
“The speed of [EU] funding for projects is a problem. Things move so fast that if an end-user is told that he’ll have to wait two or more years for research to deliver what he needs, well that is just not on for the end-user. This has got to be speeded up. That’s critical,” declared Meroño.
The other big challenge is to track the take-up of SR results by end-users, which he said points to national procurement of capabilities.
“The success of an SR project has to go beyond the fact that a research consortium got the money and achieved the results or produced a well-written report,” he observed. “The use of the results has to be tracked as well. Success will be [achieved] if we create a consolidated security market and if our ministries do not have to look abroad — beyond Europe — to buy the things they need.”