EU: New €77 billion research fund launches; €1.6 billion for security research

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This article was amended on 4 June 2014 to reflect the accurate figures for the 'secure societies' budget, which is €1.6 rather than €3.4 billion, which was suggested in earlier official statements.

The European Commission announced this week the first opportunities for funding under the new Horizon 2020 research budget, which has a total budget of just over €77 billion.

€1.6 billion of that money will be directed over the next six years towards the theme 'Secure societies - Protecting freedom and security of its citizens', which aims to contribute towards "the implementation of the policy goals of the Europe 2020 strategy, the Security Industrial Policy, the Internal Security Strategy and the Cyber Security Strategy." Funding that contributes to these goals will also likely come from other sources such as the themes 'Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies' (€13.5 billion) and 'Smart, green and integrated transport' (€6.3 billion); and programmes run by the Joint Research Centre (awarded €1.9 billion under Horizon 2020).

The 'secure societies' theme has four sub-topics:

  • disaster resilience: safeguarding and security society, including adapting to climate change;
  • fight against crime and terrorism;
  • border security and external security; and
  • digital security: cybersecurity, privacy and trust.

    €119 million will be made available in 2014 for projects within these topics and the Commission is seeking proposals for research on specific issues such as, "improving the aviation security chain" under critical infrastructure protection, "minimum intrusion tools for de-escalation during mass gatherings" under the fight against crime and terrorism, and "novel concepts for land border security" under border security and external security.

    The 2009 Statewatch/Transnational Institute report NeoConOpticon, which examined security research funded through the 7th Framework Programme, the predecessor to Horizon 2020, argued that:

    "Despite the often benign intent behind collaborative European 'research' into integrated land, air, maritime, space and cyber-surveillance systems, the EU's security and R&D policy is coalescing around a high-tech blueprint for a new kind of security. It envisages a future world of red zones and green zones; external borders controlled by military force and internally by a sprawling network of physical and virtual security checkpoints; public spaces, micro-states and 'mega events' policed by high-tech surveillance systems and rapid reaction forces; 'peacekeeping' and 'crisis management' missions that make no operational distinction between the suburbs of Basra or the Banlieue; and the increasing integration of defence and national security functions at home and abroad."

    The EU's framework research programmes have been criticised repeatedly for prioritising the interests of large companies, in particular from the defence and security industries.

    While research funded by Horizon 2020 must, according to Article 6 of the Regulation, have "an exclusive focus on civil applications", there have been increasing calls from the European External Action Service, the European Defence Agency and the European Parliament for EU research to seek "synergies" between civil and military research and technology.

    In November, the Council of the European Union invited the Commission to:

    "[M]aximise cross-fertilisation between [European Defence Agency] programmes and the outcome of EU civil research programmes in areas of dual use technologies such as, inter alia, RPAS [Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems or drones] and Governmental Satellite Communications... air lift, future transport helicopters... cyber security and maritime security.

    The Commission, for its part, has stated that "the respect of privacy and civil liberties is a guiding principle" for its new 'secure societies' work programme, saying that "all individual projects must meet the requirements of fundamental rights, including the protection of personal data, and comply with EU law in that regard."

    Documents and further reading

  • Regulation of the European Parliament and of the council establishing Horizon 2020 - the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) and repealing Decision No 1982/2000/EC (pdf)
  • European Commission, Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2014-2015 - Secure societies - Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens (pdf)
  • Statewatch/Transnational Institute, NeoConOpticon, 2009 (pdf)
  • European Commission, Horizon 2020 Participant Portal (link)
  • European Commission, Horizon 2020 - first calls (press release, link)

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