How Europe wants to organize the creation of technological breakthroughs

Europe is trying to align the stars so that industries linked to defense and space generate new “disruptive” technologies.

What do the three-point safety belt have in common with satellite debris detection? A plan from the European Commission to boost Europe’s technological potential. Its name: the “Three-Point Belt Plan”, in reference to this belt invented by a Swedish engineer who worked on the ejection seats of fighter planes.

The three-point belt is a European military innovation that has become a world standard and has saved more than a million lives since its introduction. A reference from the past for an idea that the European administration hopes will be successful: to create the conditions for this type of synergy between the civilian industries and those of the defense or aerospace to multiply, so that new global standards.

Road sheets

The Commission’s plan is based on the new European Defense Fund, endowed with € 1 billion per year for the next seven years, and which could inject, by leverage, more than 30 billion euros in the sector. With this new tool, it intends to explore “the disruptive potential of technologies at the intersection between defense, space and civilian uses” by a methodical approach to promote synergies.

Projects will be framed in the form of “technological roadmaps”, which will mark out the stages from design to wide application.

“The idea is that innovations, by their design, systematically reach multiple uses,” said the Commissioner of the Digital Society Margrethe Vestager on Monday.

The Union will acquirea critical technologies observatory, responsible for identifying key research and innovation sectors. It will produce a classified report every two years on sensitive technologies, dependencies, value chains for defense, space and associated civilian industries.

On this basis, projects will be framed in the form of “technological roadmaps”, which will mark out the stages from design to broad application, by securing European funding, by targeting socio-economic applications and by bringing together stakeholders.

Three first concrete projects are in the sights of the Commission. They relate to drones, broadband connectivity and traffic management in space.

By identifying promising veins, the Commission wants to strengthen the links – what it calls “cross-fertilization” – between the various EU research programs, including the Horizon Europe framework program.

Three flagship projects

The Commission therefore intends to increase the number of flagship projects based on strategic or promising technologies. Three first concrete projects are in his sights.

The first concerns drones – the idea is to ensure that defense projects benefit from emerging technologies in companies active in the development of civilian drones, and vice versa. The second aims to develop a new channel of high speed connectivity via a satellite infrastructure, in addition to the Galileo (positioning) and Copernicus (observation) networks. By integrating quantum encryption technologies, it would ensure highly secure connectivity. Finally, the Commission relies on space traffic management: it intends to develop standards and rules to avoid collisions resulting from the proliferation of satellites and debris.

The three projects are not yet loaded on the ramp: the European administration is launching an “intensified dialogue” with the sectors, with a view to possible legislative proposals. In the hope of aligning the stars to allow Europe to win victories in the global technology race.

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