Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Report on the dual-use potential of Key Enabling Technologies: identification of strategic areas for EU civilian and defence markets

Report on the dual-use potential of Key Enabling Technologies: identification of strategic areas for EU civilian and defence markets
Published on: 04/04/2017
This report aims to identify areas where Europe should invest in innovation to fully benefit from technologies that have a dual use in civilian and defence markets. This will lead to a better use of resources and unlock untapped potential in this domain.

Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) are the building blocks of the most advanced products. Because of this, they have high dual-use potential. Following a recommendation of the KETs High Level Group (2015), the study analysed a broad number of industrial sectors (e.g. chemicals, electronics, energy, and aerospace) to identify innovation areas of common interest for both civilian and military sectors. This resulted in the identification of 38 KETs areas in which Europe should strategically invest.

The 38 areas were selected for their high relevance to the European Defence Technological and Industrial base and their contribution to the:

  • strategic independence of the civilian and defence supply chains
  • economic impact on EU growth and job creation
  • EU knowledge base (R&D capital stock and R&D&I infrastructure)

These innovation areas range from robots to biometric identification techniques or even data mining, which all have a clear dual-use potential. The areas were grouped into the following thematic fields:

  • Energy for mobility (e.g. hydrogen storage systems for fuel cells)
  • Fundamental non-dependence materials and components (e.g. advanced, smart materials for satellite applications)
  • Health and sanitary protection, including against CBRN-E threats (e.g. screening devices for detection of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive material traces)
  • Communication, navigation and surveillance systems (e.g. unmanned vehicles for wide-area surveillance in air, land and water)
  • Human assistance and robotics (e.g. robotic systems such as exoskeletons)
  • Security/cybersecurity systems (e.g. advanced biometric identification techniques)
  • Production and supply chain solutions (e.g. tracking and tracing devices)

Each innovation area was thoroughly analysed and individual profiles provide an overview of the current technological drivers/barriers associated with the adoption of the underlying technologies in both defence and civilian sectors. An impact assessment was carried out to provide evidence of the market potential of specific dual-use technologies. Data was also provided on potential synergies between civilian and defence research programmes, on patent applicants (main players), and on the expected timeline to market for each technology (indication of technology and manufacturing readiness levels).

Policy recommendations

The report stresses the importance of a common mapping of critical raw materials in Europe and the creation of a dedicated joint European procurement mechanism to reduce our dependence on imported materials. 

Europe should also find mechanisms that can be rapidly implemented to better protect the potential acquisition of strategic EU companies by non-EU players.

A common platform should be developed to bring together large enterprises, SMEs, and research and technology organisations operating in both defence and civil sectors, to share information on their research results and improve the coordination of regional and national activities. Such a platform could promote dual-use research activities for training and education purposes at university level, and ultimately increase general public awareness.

The report also calls for supporting projects (even at low technology readiness levels) to strengthen transfers between military and non‐military sectors, while boosting collaboration between military labs and civilian research to promote innovation.

More information

The ENDR (European network of defence-related regions) brings together regional authorities, clusters and business to share experiences and best practices on dual use activities.