EU gives £10m boost to security research

September 2, 2005

The European Union is pumping millions into security-related research - projects valued at €15 million (£10 million) were announced last month alone.

The money forms the second of three tranches of grants in a three-year €65 million programme covering 13 projects including improving railway security, surveillance of European harbours and coastlines, integrating air transport security sys-tems and securing computers against attacks from cyber-terrorists.

The projects cover an array of scientific and technical disciplines and, if the European Commission sticks to its original plans, there should be €35 million to spend next year. Brussels is making the administrative preparations for the next call for proposals.

Gunter Verheugen, EU Industry and Enterprise Commissioner, said: "The recent events in London show how vulnerable public transport systems are to terrorist attacks. The commission is determined to do its part to better protect our citizens and fund EU-wide targeted research efforts."

All this is helpful for EU researchers into security-related topics, but the real riches may be still to come.

Assuming an agreement can be reached on the EU budget that leaves the commission's research plans unscathed, security will command a large share of an annual €500 million budget under the next Framework Programme (FP7) for research, from 2007-13.

This follows years of discussions in Brussels about giving security research a permanent separate status in EU research spending. The impetus behind such ideas was the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

But there have been shifting positions over exactly how much should be allocated to the topic.

Last September, a commission policy paper recommended an annual €1 billion budget, which sent national treasuries into a spin. The latest proposal is for €500 million.

Whatever happens in the overall EU budget negotiations, spending on security research is likely to be substantial, unless there is no deal at all.

Unlike many other research themes, such as agriculture or industry, where countries' differing economic interests make budget agreements difficult, all EU states have an interest in improved security, so more funding for the subject could help break a political deadlock.

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