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News article11 February 2020

EU Security and Defence research landscape

EU security and defence research landscape
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JRC publishes a landscape report providing in a single document a large landscape review of the EU-funded research in security and defence.

As part of its knowledge management activities, the report reviews the current main risks and threats and those that may emerge within the next 5 years, the policy and operational means developed to combat them, the main active stakeholders and the EU legislation in force.

Thematic building blocks

Under the umbrella of the three core priorities defined in the European Agenda on Security (terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime), the report is organised around 11 thematic building blocks:

  • border control
  • critical infrastructure protection
  • public space protection
  • critical supplies security
  • cybersecurity
  • chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive(CBRN-E)threats
  • hybrid threats
  • combating radicalisation to terrorism
  • fighting against terrorism financing
  • space
  • defence

Horizon 2020

An inventory of relevant research and development (R&D) projects funded under the Horizon 2020 framework programme during the period 2014 – May 2018 is provided, allowing their examination in relation to, among other aspects, the building blocks, the core priorities, Horizon 2020 funding programmes, the country or countries involved and dual-use potential i.e. civilian research that could be applied to the defence sector.

Focus on cybersecurity and physical protection

A key finding in the report relates to the distribution of projects by building block over the period 2014 – May 2018. From the 349 projects funded under Horizon 2020 and recorded in the Community Research and Development Information Service (Cordis), roughly half (48%, 167 projects) are related to cybersecurity. Three other blocks each account for more than 10% of the projects, namely critical infrastructure protection (19%, 68 projects), public space protection (12%, 43 projects) and border control (11%, 39 projects), all dealing with control of physical spaces and entities or making them secure. It is also worth noting that a significant number of projects (21%) are multi-thematic, i.e. projects attributed to one particular building block may also contribute to others.

Proportion of projects by building block (%)

Proportion of projects by building block (%)

Note: *Building blocks with fewer than 10 projects

Fighting terrorism and radicalisation requests research and competences from all building blocks

Analysis show that, although not in equal proportions, all building blocks are present in projects related to the priority “Fighting terrorism and radicalisation”. The same applies to the priority “Combating organised crime”, although with a more uneven distribution. Border control is at the forefront together with ‘other’ research falling outside the building blocks (e.g. law enforcement support, social sciences and forensic techniques). For its part, the priority “Fighting cybercrime” exhibits a singular profile with 80% of the projects dealing with research in cybersecurity.

Distribution of projects by priorities and building blocks (%)


Funding not only from H2020 security programme

The analysis also illustrates that the specific Horizon 2020 programme dedicated to security (Programme 3.7) is not the only funding source for projects displaying security component as 41% of them were funded by other Horizon 2020 programmes. From these 144 projects, almost half (68 projects) got funding from Programme 1 (‘Excellent science’), 54 from Programme 2 (‘Industrial leadership’) and the remaining 22 were either funded under Programmes 3.1-3.6 or from Programme 4 (‘Spreading excellence and widening participation’) or were co-funded under Programmes 2 and 3.

Focus on dual-use potential

The overwhelming majority of the 349 security and defence research projects identified in the study were assessed as displaying dual-use potential: almost 90 % (311 projects). The analysis shows that, with a low degree of variability, this holds true for all building blocks.

Number of projects by building block and dual-use potential

Number of projects by building block and dual-use potential

Note: *Building blocks with fewer than 10 projects

Future avenues

Future avenues for security and defence R&D are discussed by building block. This is complemented by more specific foresight insights gathered from a horizon-scanning exercise carried out at the JRC.

Support to policy

The report will support the European Commission – and EU policymakers more in general – in taking initiatives in the domain of security and defence. Its holistic approach will help in identifying the main issues, the gaps and uncovered fields, the links between threats, the dual use research potential, and provide a five years and beyond foresight perspective. The report gives information and directions, which will help shaping the future EU R&D in security and defence.

Related links

Executive summary

Full report

Related Content

Security and defence research in the European Union: a landscape review


Publication date
11 February 2020