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Capability-driven approach to push EU technological development

The EU is set to expand its support for technological cross-fertilisation between the civil, space, and defence sectors, and will promote its plan with new policies, money, standards, and networking schemes. Pushing a capability-driven approach (CDA) across the sectors will be key to the plan’s overall success, particularly regarding the EU’s security stakeholders such as law enforcement and customs authorities.

As part of the EU’s wider March 2020 industrial strategy, the European Commission unveiled its ‘Action Plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries’ on 22 February. The concise 15-page document outlines its rationale and actions that the Commission will launch to encourage cross-fertilisation among the three sectors. The plan’s main goal is to promote the identification and exploitation of disruptive and innovative technologies, thereby supporting Europe’s strategic and economic autonomy.

“We want systematic synergies across these three areas so that benefits flow by intent and not just by coincidence,” Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for digital policy told reporters when co-presenting the plan with her colleague, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market. “We will set up a technology-driven, [Artificial Intelligence]-supported approach, especially for Europe’s security sector,” she observed. “We want border guards, LEAs [law enforcement agencies] and others to get what they need to do their job.”

Breton added that, under the new plan, the Commission will monitor research and commercial development to identify the most critical technologies such as advanced computer processors. “There are tensions arising over these, which are a strategic matter,” he said, implicitly referring to Chinese and US dominance in the processor sector. “Europe must take a leadership role on processors that are low-energy and high-performance. Quantum technology is another one, vital for its applications to cryptography and communications.”

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