Brussels - 27 March, 2014 European Defence Agency
While the first roundtable of the EDA’s annual conference "European Defence Matters" had focused primarily on capabilities, this time research, innovation, and industry took centre stage. Bernhard Gerwert, CEO Airbus Defence & Space called on European policy makers to decide what their ambitions are. He said, "we do not need special incentives, we just need programmes… Research and development is only worthwhile if we have the ambition to build the next generation of products. If we don’t have that ambition then it makes no sense to spend the money."
Michael Gahler, Member of the European Parliament and its Committee on Foreign Affairs & Subcommittee on Security and Defence agreed about the need to have a clear idea of what Europe wanted to achieve. He went further and called for a European defence review, to assess the situation at the moment, and to reverse the trend of industry and expertise leaving Europe.
He also argued strongly that that the artificial divide between civil and military research needs to be scrapped. He said "We must make use of any funds that are available." This was reiterated by Claudia Gärtner, CEO, Microfluidic ChipShop. She pointed out that for most new innovations, whether they had military or civil applications, the technology underpinning it was the same.
Jenny Body, President of the Royal Aeronautical Society was particularly concerned by the long term effects that current budget cuts for research and development would have. "We have to ensure that we do not lose the expertise. Remember the engineers who will build the next generation of civilian aircraft are probably only aged 3-4 today," she said. "We already face a shortfall of engineers now, if you don’t invest in research you will lose not only the technologies but the people capable of developing them in the future."