Advisory board outlines priorities for security research

October 3, 2006

Brussels, 02 Oct 2006

Multidisciplinary, mission-oriented research on security should be undertaken at EU level, covering capability development, system development and system-of-systems demonstration, according to a new report from the European Security Research Advisory Board (ESRAB). The process leading to the ESRAB report, entitled 'Meeting the challenge: the European Security Research Agenda', began when a Group of Personalities was established by former Commissioners Philippe Busquin (research) and Erkki Liikanen (enterprise and information society) in 2003. The group presented its report to the President of the European Commission in March 2004 and recommended, among other activities, the formation of ESRAB.

The first research path, capability development, would include detection and identification, information management, risk assessment, modelling and simulation tools. In terms of detection and identification, existing technologies are generally too bulky and slow, and generate unacceptably high false alarm rates.

Possible application areas for improved technologies include the detection of small boats in blue border areas, the detection of abnormal crowd behaviour, and the detection of unattended luggage. The report also backs biometric-based systems, saying that they 'will support the fight against terrorism, be instrumental in the aftermath of a crisis and will improve access control at both border checkpoints and critical infrastructures.'

System development would focus on integrating different capabilities, technologies and disciplines in novel ways, while 'system-of-systems' demonstration would involve integrating existing structures for dealing with threats. 'In areas of significant European interest, it is recommended that demonstration programmes be established to act as federative frames to coalesce the required research. These European flagships would aim to ensure the coherent development of the required system building blocks, architectures and standards,' states the report.

ESRAB recommends the formation of five demonstration programmes: aftermath crisis management; European-wide integrated border control; logistic and supply chain security; security of mass transportation; and CBRNE - chemical, biological, radiological/nuclear, explosive - threats.

The report's authors are careful to acknowledge that society must not be by-passed in efforts to improve security. 'Research into ethics and privacy, and the trade-off between improved security and loss of privacy, will influence technology development and in parallel address aspects of how citizens perceive security and insecurity,' reads the paper.

In order to ensure that EU research results are put to use, ESRAB recommends the development of a European security research system. 'It should build upon innovative pre-commercial public procurement, the use of large-scale demonstration programmes, greater SME [small and medium sized enterprise] engagement and the definition and use of European standards,' states the report.

ESRAB concludes its activities on 31 December, but recommends that the baton is picked up by a European Security Board (ESB). The board would foster greater dialogue and a shared view of European security needs, bringing together authoritative senior representatives from public and private sector stakeholders to develop a 'strategic security agenda'.

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