BRUSSELS – The EU intends to include a large-scale Demonstration Project (DP) in crisis management in its next call for Security Research proposals, but what should the project seek to accomplish? Many DP ideas emerged during a recent workshop on the subject – from how to handle the impact of external events on the EU’s internal security to the validation of existing technologies.
Hosted here on 25 January by DG Enterprise and Industry, the event brought together around 120 participants from national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), EU institutions and industry, and was typical of the single-theme workshops the Commission organises on different aspects of the Security Research (SR) programme.
The workshop’s central purpose was to collect ideas for shaping the Demonstration topic in the Commission’s next Security Research call for proposals, to be released in mid-2012. This kind of project is the SR programme’s largest, involving many public and private-sector players, tens of millions of euros and complex system-of-system technologies and capabilities.
“Our goal is to make sure that we facilitate as much as possible the transition between R&D and the market,” a Commission speaker told participants. “This means that the involvement of end-users in these projects is imperative.”
Judging by audience’s composition during the event itself, that message was clearly heard: more than 60 percent of the workshop’s 120 participants hailed from Europe’s sectors that need civil security technology such as police forces, fire fighters, NGOs and other crisis management and disaster relief responders.
One of the messages about research that end-users conveyed to their industry counterparts in the room was: don’t approach an end-user at the last minute to join a research project because they are under operational pressure.
“Do not come to us four weeks before the deadline with a bunch of technical proposals,” panelist Heiko Werner at Germany’s federal agency for technical relief known as THW (Technisches Hilfswerk) told the workshop. “That would be asking us to understand what is behind your software, drone or whatever in a very short time, and that cannot be done via a telephone call. You don’t want an end-user who is asked to give feedback on something he doesn’t know.”
Role of validation
Participants also had other suggestions for a crisis management-oriented DP. Some said it should validate current system-of-systems capabilities, while others argued that the goal should aim for innovative technologies. Several end-users pointed to an urgent need for SR capabilities that handle the impact of external events on the EU’s internal security. Still others called for technology that can link information and messaging from end-users and citizens at the street level right up to political authorities during a crisis, thus connecting all levels of society.
Panelist Delilah Al-Khudairy, leading the Global Security and Crisis management unit at the EU’s Joint Research Centre in Italy, succinctly summed up the issues. “I think the take-away from these discussions is that any Demonstration project must closely link industry, end-users, researchers and citizens. As for validation, this has not been explored to the limit that it could be, so it’s clear that the project should stress that,” said Al-Khudairy. “Ultimately, however, a DP must have a strong focus on citizens so that they can help with crisis management in the future.”