European Defence Fund – The 2021 Launch Event

by Giorgio Scappaticci (AOS)


The European Defence Fund, the European Commissions’ €8 billion program to support European industrial corporation for defense from 2021 to 2027, was officially launched by the Commission during a virtual event on 30 June 2021 and valued as a unique occasion to celebrate the official launch. The same day also marked the adoption of the first EDF Work Program with 23 calls for proposals, open for participation of both Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and large entities. 

The Budget proposed is 8 Billion€ for the period 2021-2027, upon a request made the EU Commission of 13 Billion€. 25 Nations out of 27 have already accepted the budget and the initiative.  There is a great hope that the remaining two, namely Luxembourg and Malta, will follow soon.

Through the EDF Programme, the EU will be able to co-finance collaborative and cross-border research and development actions in the defence sector on an unprecedented scale. In doing so, EDF will support the competitiveness of the EU Defence Industry and contribute to the strategic autonomy of the Union and its Member States. A major goal of EDF is to promote cooperation among companies and research actors throughout the European Union, boosting the European defense technological and industrial base (EDTB). In turn, this is expected to consolidate the EU strategic autonomy and to help better meet its defense and security needs. 

The Launch Event conference has been hosted by the European Commission/DG DEFIS as the EDF is a Union programme. The high-level event listed three sessions, bringing together decision makers and stakeholders of the European defence sector. Furthermore, it showed the results achieved so far through its precursor Programmes, the Preparatory Action on Defence Research [PADR 2017-2019] and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme [EDIDP 2019-2020].

The Launch Event conference also revealed the priorities of the first-ever EDF Work Programme.


As presented by the Commission representatives, the EDF will support collaborative industrial defense projects throughout the entire cycle of research and development. Special attention will be given to disruptive technologies and large-scale capability, expected to be game changers for the armed forces of participating countries. Up to now 25 EU Nations decided to participate, while the remaining two, namely Luxembourg and Malta, are expected to follow soon.

The Programme represents a 2021-2027 cutting edge and interchangeable Defence technology efforts. EDF will support the EU industrial cooperation for Defence through the entire cycle of Research & Development.

see also 2021 Call for Proposals

An entire spectrum, from next generation radar technologies to naval, air and ground capabilities as well as specific capabilities like cyber situational awareness, secure communication networks and medical countermeasures will be covered by EDF.  Special attention on Disruptive Technology, Next Generation Radar Technology, Air and Ground Capabilities, Cyber Situation and Awareness, Secure Network and new Medical Materiel will be given. Among the others, the new European Fighter, the new Frigate, and a new Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) DRONE. New Radar Systems and Cyber Security will also part of the package.

The budget will be divided into two main areas:

  • 2,7 Billion€ will dedicated to collaborative Defence Research
  • 5.3 Billion€ will be assigned to the Development of new projects

The scope is the incentivize cross-border collaboration and maximize the maximum leverage through the national co-funding. The benefit will be to size in Europe a more competitive and resilient EU Defence Industry with special attention to SME’s, fostering more competition among companies dedicated to the Research.

The final result will be to build an EU Defense market more competitive and resilient reducing at same time the double spending and getting better value for the investment made. At same time the EU Defence technical and industrial base will acquire a strategic autonomy in is security needs.

The whole effort represents a long-term investment in Defence innovation and will create new high skilled jobs in Europe.


The expositions were quite interesting and speakers followed each other with speediness presenting their arguments with clarity and a concrete vision of what would be in the future  the role of EU Defence Acquisition.

The online featured high-level speakers, like Mr. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Mr. Joao Gomes Cravinho, Portuguese Minister of Defence and Mr. Cristian Silviu Busoi, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. 

EU Commissioner Breton thanked the EU Portuguese Presidency and the European Parliament for their key role in the adoption of the EDF regulation, which underpins the practical implementation of the EDF programme. He also stressed the role of EDF in enhancing the European autonomy and paving the way towards a real European ambition and contributing to make the EU a credible partner particularly vis-à-vis allies like NATO. 

Further, the EDF should not be a financial gap filler for pre-existing cooperative projects but a multiplier. EDF is only one part of a wider European common Defence policy toolbox such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). 

Mr. Timo Pesonen, Director General for Defense Industry and Space at the European Commission noted that EDF is also part of the EU effort to take care of its own security and to take share of its burden. 

Besides promoting SME participation in the EDF competition Pesonen also highlighted the importance coaching, communication and outreach via, for example, a network of national focal points. 

Mr. François Arbault, Director for Defence Industry at DG DEFIS (European Commission) mentioned that, drawing on the lessons learnt from precursor programmes (EDIDP, PADR) the most promising aspect of EDF is that cross border cooperation is taken at the next level in a sector that has traditionally been sensitive and quite fragmented. 

The SAAB representative, Ms. Katarina Bjorklund, stated that the EDF’s most promising enabler is the ability to fund the demonstrators. Bringing technologies to a high technology readiness level through demonstration is risky and challenging for both nations and industry. EDF would help to reduce this risk by showing the possible capabilities for customers. 

She stressed the importance to direct the EDF towards future competences that respond to the needs of the Armed Forces and for the Member States to clearly define their needs. The sooner the dialogue start between them and with their national industries, the surer will be  that there is alignment on what is important for the future. 

From an SME perspective, Mr. Antonio Peppas CEO of ETME Hydro Eng. mentioned that EDIDP was an opportunity for a purely civilian SME to enter the Defence sector thanks to funding and thank to the possibility to find clients. 

Eventually, Ms. Alice Mizrahi, Thales, mentioned the EU’s track record in supporting multi-country collaborative projects on the civilian side. EDF and the precursor programmes provide the opportunity to do the same on the Defence side.

 In summary, the European Defense has reached the conclusion that some independency is to be sought and collaboration among the European Industry shall be fostered. The key factors to keep the success of EDF is being able to have a sustainable support in the long term and take projects from a low TRL to maturity, and to have synergy and complementarity between the civilian and Defence projects


The organizer was looking forward to Nation and Industry virtual attendance at the Launch Event of the European Defence Fund (EDF). This  event brought together high-level decision makers and stakeholders of the European defence sector. It showed the results achieved so far through its precursor Programmes, the Preparatory Action on Defence Research [PADR 2017-2019] and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme [EDIDP 2019-2020]. Eventually it also revealed the priorities of the first-ever EDF Work Programme

All-in-all the event represented the first attempt to show to the Industry the willingness of EU to explore the in-house Defence Industrial Capability and dedicate relevant funding and effort to Research and Development to develop an independent European Competency, in several fields with special attention but not limited to SME.

Among the others, the most important initiatives which to be taken by the EU will be the new European Fighter, the new Frigate, and a new Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) DRONE.
New Radar Systems and Cyber Security will also part of the package.

see also: EDF 2021: 23 calls for proposals

In summary, the European Defense has reached the conclusion that some independency is to be sought and collaboration among the European Industry shall be fostered.

Attention on Disruptive Technology, Next Generation Radar Technology, Air and Ground Capabilities, Cyber Situation and Awareness, Secure Network and new Medical Materiel will be given.


  • THIERRY BRETON – European Commissioner for Internal Market – European Commission
    • Thierry Breton is European Commissioner for internal market. He ran several companies and served as CEO at Bull, Thomson Multimédia and France Télécom. From 2005 to 2007, he served as French Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry before joining Harvard Business School as a Professor. In 2009, he became CEO at Atos, a function he held until 2019 when he became European Commissioner for Internal Market. His portfolio includes industry, goods and services, digital, defence, space, tourism and audio-visual topics.
  • JOÃO GOMES CRAVINHO – Minister of National Defence of Portugal – Ministry of Defence of Portugal
    • João Gomes Cravinho is Minister of National Defence of Portugal. He holds a doctorate in Politics by the University of Oxford (1996) and a Master’s degree in Politics of the World Economy by the London School of Economics (1987).
      He was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Governments between March 2005 and June 2011, and was the European Union’s Ambassador to India from December 2011 to July 2015, and to Brazil from August 2015 to October 2018.
  • KADI SILDE – Undersecretary for Defence Policy – Estonian Ministry of Defence
    • Ms Kadi Silde is the Undersecretary for Defence Policy at the Estonian Ministry of Defence since January 2019. The Undersecretary for Defence Policy coordinates policy planning, NATO and EU matters, and international cooperation in the ministry. Prior to becoming the Undersecretary for Defence Policy, she was seconded to the European Commission where she worked on the European Defence Fund.
  • CRISTIAN SILVIU BUȘOI – Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy – European Parliament
    • Dr Buşoi entered the Romanian Parliament in 2004 and, in 2013, became President of the Romanian National Health Insurance House. Since 2007, he has been elected to the European Parliament for three consecutive terms. There, he is also Member of the Delegation for Southeast Asia, as well as substitute Member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and the Delegation for the Arab Peninsula.
  • TIMO PESONEN – Director General, DG DEFIS – European Commission
    • Timo Pesonen started his career in Finnish foreign affairs before joining the EU Institutions, where he held several high-level positions. Among others, he was Chief of Cabinet of EU Commissioner for EU Enlargement Olli Rehn, Director-General of DG Communication from 2015 to 2019, and Director-General at DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW) from 2019 to 2020. In January 2020, he became Director-General of the newly created DG Defence industry and Space.
  • MATTEO BISCEGLIA – Director – OCCAR Executive Administration
    • Vice Admiral Matteo Bisceglia is, since September 2019, the Director of the OCCAR Executive Administration. OCCAR is the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation which is a European intergovernmental organisation that facilitates and manages collaborative armament programmes. Prior to this, with the rank of Vice Admiral, he served as the Director of Naval Armaments at the Italian Secretariat General of Defence/National Armaments Directorate. Among his functions Vice Admiral Bisceglia has been: the Italian co-Chairman of the IT-FR FREMM (Multi Mission European Frigates) Programme Steering Committee;  the Programme Committee member of the Italian PPA (Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura – Multirole Offshore Patrol Vessels) and the IT-FR LSS (Logistic Support Ship) Programmes.
  • FRANÇOIS ARBAULT – Director for Defence Industry, DG DEFIS, European Commission – European Commission
    • François Arbault is Director for Defence industry at the European Commission. He previously exercised various responsibilities within the Commission, the most recent being the policy coordination of the “European Green Deal” in the Secretariat-General, and his participation in the negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement of the United kingdom from the EU at the “Article 50” Task Force. François had previously been the Head of the “Public procurement strategy” and the “Industrial Property” units in the Commission, after he was successively a member of the cabinets of Commissioners Jacques Barrot and Michel Barnier (2008-2013). 
  • CATARINA BJÖRKLUND – Vice President Group Strategy – SAAB
    • Katarina Björklund is Vice President Group Strategy at SAAB. Katarina has vast experience from international collaboration, e.g. leading the EDA’s project ‘Future Air Systems for Europe’.
      Since 2012, Katarina has been actively working with Research and Technology (R&T) within ASD, the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe. In recent years, Katarina has had a special focus on EU-related R&T activities, such as the EDF and its preparatory actions, coordinating the work both within Saab and with the Swedish authorities. In her current function within Group Strategy, her work focuses on EDF, innovation and related strategies. In 2017, she was also responsible for the Strategic Business planning within Saab.
  • ALICE MIZRAHI – Scientific Researcher – Thales
    • Dr. Alice Mizrahi is a researcher at Thales Research & Technology (Palaiseau, France), in the joint laboratory with CNRS and Université Paris Saclay. She works on developing novel hardware for artificial neural networks using nanotechnology. The goal of her research is to bring artificial intelligence into embedded systems with strong constraints in terms of reduction of size and energy consumption. She currently coordinates the Spin-IA project funded by the French Defence Agency and the SPINAR project funded by the EC within the PADR program.
  • HANS-MARTIN PASTUSZKA– Head of Business Unit – Defence Technology Foresight – Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis INT
    • Hans-Martin Pastuszka, is senior researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis INT in Germany. Together with his team, he is responsible for delivering the quarterly “Defence Technologies Forecast” to the German FMoD, identifying and assessing emerging and dynamic technological developments worldwide regarding their potential future defence relevance.
    • Antonios Peppas, CEO of ETME is steering the company for more than a decade, through transition from a traditional civil engineering hydro works SME to a disruptive innovation company. A civil hydro-engineer by education, Antonios has been involved from invention and concept design to product delivery in the offshore wind industry of a new wind and marine environment monitoring asset class, namely FloatMast, funded by HORIZON2020. He has been leading EDIDP 2019’s largest SME consortium at the DECISMAR Project, with more than 12 companies across seven EU countries. The latest venture is the development of a new defence product suitable for the offshore environment, namely USSPs (Unmanned Semi-fixed Sea Platforms)

see also

EDF 2021: 23 calls for proposals

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