EU Security Research initiative grabs aeronautics sector's attention
Representatives from large and small aeronautics companies across Europe flocked to the Commission's Security Research Information Day in Brussels on 25 March to learn about this unprecedented initiative in European homeland security.
Jointly organised by the Commission's ‘Research’ and ‘Information Society’ Directorates General, the day's theme – 'Preparatory Action on the Enhancement of the European Industrial Potential in the Field of Security Research (PASR)' – attracted more than 400 participants from industry, research groups and academic institutions. Many came from some of the Europe's leading aeronautics and aerospace companies such as EADS, BAe Systems and Thales.
Diversity of participants
“We are happily surprised by the number and diversity of attendees here today,” Jacques Bus, Head of Unit at DG Information Society for Security Research told participants. “The focus today is on building a community that will take us into the full-scale Security Research programme of the future.”
His equivalent at DG Research, Herbert von Bose, Head of Unit for Security Research, said the Commission expected the meeting to produce "a much clearer idea of how this Preparatory Action will be implemented, and how and in what areas we can work together" with industry, researchers and universities.
Five key security objectives
The PASR initiative will finance half a dozen projects in five priority research categories identified by the Commission as key to safeguarding the security of Europe's citizenry:
- Improving situation awareness;
- Optimising security and protection of networked systems;
- Protecting against terrorism;
- Enhancing crisis management;
- Achieving interoperability and integrated systems for information and communication.
That Europe's aeronautics sector turned out in force to gain insights about PASR is not surprising. Advanced on-board aircraft detection, surveillance, and communications systems are a vital component to situation awareness capability. Moreover, these must be integrated with civil/military air traffic control systems, next-generation navigational satellites such as the EU's forthcoming GALILEO network, and with national emergency response systems on the ground.
The PASR projects, whose first call for proposals was published in April, will be financed from the European Union's budget. A total allocation of €65 million will be set aside for 2004-2006, with contributions in kind from industry and research groups in the form of expertise and access to their research and testing facilities. Approximately €15 million will be disbursed in 2004.
The Information Day's main purpose was two-fold: to explain the short- and long-term objectives of the Commission's Preparatory Action--including rules of participation and tendering procedures--and to encourage a fruitful partnering among participants.
Security funding will grow
Noting that the total PASR budget "is not an enormous sum of money", von Bose nonetheless underlined its strategic import and what lies ahead. "We consider this a starting point. Until now, there has not been a lot of networking on security at the European level," he observed. "As we move forward we will be providing more funding for more projects under future calls, so this is a very important first exercise."
Indeed the PASR projects, known as ‘security test cases,’ prefigure much larger ambitions for the European Union in this area.
In a report for the Commission by prominent European security research experts, released just days before the Information Day, the authors recommended a set-aside in the EU's Framework research programme of at least €1 billion per year for security-related research and development starting in 2007.
EU Research as catalyst
Given that many leading-edge aeronautics technologies in the United States have been driven by government-funded security and military budgets, the implied benefits for Europe's own aeronautics sector are obvious.
As Peter De Smet from DG Research told the Information Day participants: "Ensuring the security of European citizens requires a strong EU security industry and the establishment of synergies between public and private, and civil and military sectors."
The PASR projects' call for tender will close on 23 June 2004. For parties interested in the call, see the "Security Research Calls" page on the Commission's CORDIS website.