MADRID – Given the many technological synergies between Europe’s civil security and defence sectors, it make sense to bring the two sides closer together on the research and production side of things. One way to do this is by using industrial “clusters” or centers where diverse technological players – whether large or small, or public or private – can share ideas, facilities, capital or expertise.
The concept of clusters was among the topics debated during the Commission’s 12-13 March “Security Event” workshop in Madrid, which took place alongside Spain’s biannual HOMSEC security-defence trade fair.
“Why create clusters in the security area? Because it is their SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] that create value-added for the sector,” Thierry Louvet told workshop. Louvet is director of international affairs at Systematic, the Paris Region’s ICT cluster, which brings together 100 large companies, 80 laboratories, 420 SMEs and 20 venture capitalists. “Yet how to shift from nationally-based clusters to a truly European-based ones is the big challenge.”
Peter Statev, head of Bulgaria’s ICT cluster, agreed. Noting that his cluster was formed in 2006 with strictly private-sector funding, Statev said the primary reason behind its creation was to help the country’s SMEs break into foreign markets.
“Why do we need clusters? Because our best SMEs do not have the means to get into the global market on their own, and clusters offer a way to build marketing capacities for them. While there is no truly unified European market yet, we think clusters can at least help create a unified R&D and innovation space across Europe,” he told his audience.
The European Defence Agency, which works closely with the Commission to coordinate their respective research agendas, is also interested in clusters for their potential in developing “dual-use” technologies, or those that can be used by either military or civil end-users.
“More needs to be done to create complementary regional clusters and to stimulate interaction between them,” Christian Bréant, the EDA’s director for research and technology, told the workshop, adding that his agency is interested in how the Structural Funds with the EU’s next Horizon 2020 research budget could be applied “to get these clusters going in the right direction”.
One critical ingredient for success is a cluster’s value-chain. Due to its location and the surrounding industrial density of Paris, Systematic has the full ICT value-chain under its roof, from R&D to manufacturing and sales. So does the Madrid Security Cluster for the same reasons.
“Clusters must integrate the whole technology portfolio by pulling everyone together under the same roof. This could help defragment the sector across the EU,” Lucio González Jiménez, managing director of the Madrid cluster, told the workshop. “I think Europe needs to create a network of defence and security clusters along this line.”