By Aimee Turner in London

The fledgling European Defence Agency (EDA) is masterminding a joint research programme to develop force-protection technologies using €50 million ($63.2 million) provided by a coalition of Eurpean Union member states.

Projects will be proposed by industry while states will have the opportunity to either select projects for backing or, alternatively, opt out. The EDA will present initial proposals this month.

European defence ministers in March gave the EDA the go- ahead to come up with proposals for boosting EU joint spending in defence research and technology (R&T) following last year’s Hampton Court EU summit.

Ministers reviewed three approaches: more ad hoc projects between groups of EU countries; increasing the EDA’s own budget for R&T on behalf of member states; or establishing an EDA programme of joint investment.

Speaking at the Docking Mechanisms conference on how the EDA will work, Bertrand de Cordoue, EDA research and technology director, said the objective of the joint programme was “to spend more, better and more together. We are trying to build something that is coherent, a research and technology programme where projects will be selected with a clear procedure.”

Discussing the three different options EDA considered, he said ad hoc collaboration, while it favoured bottom-up industrial collaboration, lacked competitiveness and top-down guidance and direction.

“This is not a high-speed train, but rather a long one with plenty of coaches, with the constraint that all the coaches are different, not assured of a final destination and will move only when everyone is on board,” he said.

Alternatively, using EDA’s own budget, while assuring that projects would be selected purely on a competitive basis, “it is more like a wonderful race car with a powerful engine. The problem is that firstly the driver, while highly motivated, has not managed to get his driving licence, and secondly, there is no fuel in the tank.”

He said the joint programme would ensure projects would be selected on a competitive basis. “This is more like a refrigerated truck for transporting fish. It’s not so important at this stage what kind of fish. It’s upstream and too early to state what is the precise mechanism and what the details of the collaboration are.”

Source: Flight International