PARIS – Industrial policy initiatives supporting Europe’s civil security sector should pick up speed in 2014 as the EU’s new seven-year research programme, known as Horizon 2020 gets under way.
This was the focus of a lively panel debate at a 19-20 November conference hosted by the European Commission during the 2013 Milipol technology exhibition at Villepinte, near the French capital.
“We must work with Brussels to develop the appropriate technical and certification standards to create an internal market so that our companies can grow,” said panelist Georges-Henri Mouton, Deputy Secretary General of France’s National Defence and Security General Secretariat. “Developing the right policies at national and European levels must be complementary: they go hand in hand.”
A number of Member States have structured their security research and innovation efforts to mesh closely with the EU’s wider security research and innovation initiatives. Germany is a case in point.
“Our ministry adopted a position three years ago to improve the operating environment for the security industry by coordinating among all German technical standards bodies. We want to influence the same process in Brussels,” panelist Dirk Grabowski, Head of Division at country’s federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, told the conference on 21 November.
Referring to the EU’s current 2007-2013 Security Research programme and its July 2012 Security Industrial Policy Action Plan, he said the Commission “has really done good work in the last few years. These two initiatives were really breakthroughs in the field of security, and Germany believes the new talks on reinforcing CSDP [the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy] in December are very important for the future of civil security.”
EU leaders gather in Brussels on 19-20 December to review the EU’s defence and security priorities, and are expected to endorse several dual-use capability initiatives as well as a stronger CSDP.
Participants from industry, however, called for faster timelines to translate policy into action.
“We want to see a stronger process that coordinates [equipment] requirements and harmonises procurement,” Lars Jernbäcker, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the European Organisation for Security (EOS), told the conference. “The key element for us is investment and how to handle the related risk. If there is a market volume for us, we will open our wallets to invest in new products. Without it, we will be more cautious.”
Hervé Guillou, president of France’s Conseil des Industries de la Confiance et de la Securité (CICS), agreed and pointed to the pace of setting norms and certification for Europe’s security industry. “It’s too slow. The European security industry will only be able to compete if it keeps consolidating and expanding into the new markets of Latin American and Asia. That’s why we want a stronger industrial policy.”
A Commission official acknowledged that the speed of standardisation in the sector has been a challenge. “The Commission is reviewing how this is done and next year we will see how to speed up the whole process. Standardisation will never work at the speed of light, but I agree there is room for improvement,” said the official.