The Baltic States and the European Defence Fund: results for the first call available

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This article was written for The European Sting by one of our passionate readers, Mr Donatas Palavenis. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not necessarily The European Sting’s position on the issue.


The commentary reviews the results of the 2021 Calls for Proposals for the European Defence Fund (EDF) where participants from the three Baltic States took part and looks for a successful formula that would allow increasing winning chances in future EDF calls.

European Defence Fund

The results for Calls for Proposals for EDF for 2021 were announced last month. Scientific and business entities from all over the EU actively participated in this initiative. In total, 61 projects were selected for financing from 142 received project proposals, for which 1.2 billion euros will be allocated. 

EDF aims to promote cooperation between EU companies, scientific institutions, and other participants in the research and development activities in the field of defence. It is expected that during the 2021-2027 period, the EDF will allocate a total of 8 billion euros to projects. 2.7 billion euros will be allocated to finance research, and 5.3 billion euros to cover joint development projects.

EDF is implemented through annual call programs that invite participants to participate in 17 thematic categories. It should be noted that one topic is dedicated to small and medium-sized companies that can offer innovative solutions in the field of defence technology. Normally, invitations are published in June, and participants must submit their applications by the end of November.

Funding intensity for EDF projects varies depending on the project, in most cases, costs for scientific research and development are covered up to 100 percent, whereas up to 55 percent of prototyping costs, and up to 80 percent of testing and certification costs could be covered.

It is foreseen that at least three participants from three different EU or associated states must participate in the project. In addition, there are conditions that the project financing can be higher if small and medium-sized companies would participate in the project and if the project complies with the EU Permanent Structured Cooperation in the Field of Defence programs.

Results of the participation of Lithuanian representatives in the invitation

There are nine projects in total where Lithuanian business and scientific subjects are mentioned, however, we could notice that Lithuania is represented by four subjects in total. It is known, that the Baltic Institute of Advanced Technologies (BPTI) will participate in 8 projects, while JSC ADOS-Tech, the Centre of Physical and Technological Sciences, and JSC Aktyvus Photonics will only participate in one project.

BPTI, together with consortium partners, will participate in six calls covering such topics: new materials, radar technologies, artificial intelligence, cyber defence, unmanned ground platforms, and military mobility. The consortia in which BPTI participates are large and consist of ten to thirty-five entities from more than nine EU countries. Total project values range from 10.8 to 26.8 million euros. It is planned that some of the projects will be coordinated by major EU defence industry companies like Leonardo, and Indra Sistemas.

Two more BPTI projects were approved in the call for small and medium enterprises. In the first project, valued at 3.7 million euros, solutions will be developed to improve the understanding of the military situation. Besides BPTI companies from Spain, the Netherlands, and France will be involved together with another Lithuanian company, ADOS-Tech. In the second, 3.9 million worth project, the BPTI will participate with entities from France and Slovenia aimed at identifying weak radio signals in the presence of significant interference.

JSC Aktyvaus Photonics, Centre for Physical and Technological Sciences, together with entities from Belgium and Greece, won a proposal to develop a lightweight laser target designator that could be installed in small or very small unmanned aerial vehicles systems. The value of the project coordinated by Aktyvus Photonics is 2.8 million euros.

In summary, Lithuanian entities are extensively involved in the invitations of the EDF, both by participating with already familiar partners from previous EU projects or by submitting applications independently. It is likely that the results of Calls for Proposals for EDF will encourage other national scientific and business subjects to pay greater attention to this opportunity.

What about Latvian and Estonian participants? Were they active and successful?

Estonian entities are mentioned in as many as 12 projects. It should be noted that the project, which aims to facilitate the exchange of data on the movement of military equipment in the EU and will speed up the issuance of the necessary permits, will be coordinated by the Estonian company Cybernetica. The estimated value of the project is 10.8 million euros, and 11 entities from 10 countries will participate in it. In addition to the aforementioned Cybernetica, the following Estonian entities are mentioned in the selected projects: Cafa Tech, Defsecintel Solutions, Marduk Technologies, Talgen Cybersecurity, Guardtime, Skeleton Technologies, and Tallinn University of Technology. The aforementioned participants, as in the case of Lithuania, are unequally involved in projects, e.g. Cafa Tech is mentioned in four, Defsecintel Solutions in two, and Talgen Cybersecurity in one project.

Meanwhile, Latvian entities participate in the invitation of the EDF more modestly compared to Estonian or Lithuanian participants and are mentioned in only 5 projects. None of the projects is coordinated by a Latvian scientific or business entity. Latvijas Mobilais Telefons participates in two projects, while Cyber Circle, Riga Technical University, and the Laser Centre of the University of Latvia participate in one project.

It is noteworthy that in the case of Latvia, there is a bigger involvement of state scientific institutes, while in the case of Estonia, the greater initiative is kept in the hands of private companies and research institutes.

Is there a secret? A way ahead for future participants

Perhaps there is no single recipe for success, but two things are needed: the competence of the entity submitting the application and close cooperation with the entities of other EU countries.

When evaluating the planned and allocated funding for the thematic categories for the EDF calls, it could be concluded that there was no significant competition in the two areas as a part of the planned funding was redistributed.

When assessing the overall geographical affiliation of the entities named in the winning applications, it would be fair to note that applications involving entities from Italy, Spain, France, and Germany are more likely to win.

Prospective participants would benefit from a detailed analysis of the EDF 2021-2027 program, EDF Y2021 call results, and the results of the preparatory programs (PADR, EDIDP) for 2014-2020.

In order to increase the number of participants from small EU countries in the upcoming invitations of the EDF, the involvement of country institutions, defence industry associations, proactive individuals, and organizations in spreading the word about this unique opportunity are necessary. There is no doubt that small EU countries have something to offer in the field of defence and security innovation. For that purpose, it would be necessary to hold an information seminar where potential participants would learn about the EDF application rules, and the results of the previous call, and share their experiences.

It is probably too late for future participants to look for possible consortium partners or try to join other entities in order to make it to the 2022 announced invitations, but there is certainly enough time to find partners in EU countries in order to properly prepare for the invitation of the EDF in 2023.

Mr Donatas Palavenis is a BPTI junior researcher.

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