European Union Funds Military Research

By Reina Ilagan

Dec 22, 2016 09:33 AM EST

With the changing world order, threat of terrorism, and political crises, the European Union has decided to work on bolstering its military capabilities by committing major investments in military research.

In November, the European Parliament passed a motion that claimed terrorists were targeting the continent, and that Europe was compelled to react on the increasingly complex crises. With this perceived threat on national security, it sought for broader defense fund.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament has approved $26 million of funding dedicated for military research. Forming a part of the proposed broader European Defense Fund, the fund aims to make military innovation more efficient and to enlarge Europe's industrial defense base. The research portion of the fund will cover electronics, advanced materials, encrypted software and robotics.

The European Commission, which is the European Union's policymaking arm, expects to invest a total of $93.9 million (€90 million) by 2020. The commission also hopes to raise the figure to $521.7 million a year for defense research from 2021.

The research fund will be managed by the European Defense Agency in behalf of the commission.

The sum is overshadowed by Horizon 2020, the European Union's major research-funding program. Horizon 2020 will hand out $83.5 billion over seven years. The fund is also smaller than the $9.1 billion spent by EU member states on defense research in 2014. The amount the United States and China spend on their military research is also probably higher.

As the commission shifts in focus, some scientists are worried that funding the defense research would drive EU to the wrong direction, considering that one of EU's main objective is the promotion of world peace.

"It will necessarily divert much-needed funding from civilian R&D budgets, at a time when they are urgently needed for areas such as climate and energy," Stuart Parkinson said. He is the executive director for UK-based advocacy group Scientists for Global Responsibility.

Defense, in the past years, was more of a national issue rather than a primary concern for the European Union. However, the drop in national defense-research funding, EU felt the need to create the research fund. The fund for national defense-research declined by 18% between 2006 and 2014.

Although the rules for participating in the research fund are still being discussed, it is said to be modelled loosely on Horizon 2020, probably promoting projects that combine researchers from industry and academia and from different countries.

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