What if the construction of a European defence industry was also founded on clusters, those clusters of companies that seem to be flourishing in the four corners of Europe? This is in any case what the European Defence Agency (EDA) is banking on by opening the COSME * programme to defence clusters, with the stated aim of building synergies to strengthen the European industrial network.
And the game is worth playing because with a budget of €2.3bn for the 2014-2020 period, COSME is the European programme to support the competitiveness of European SMEs. In the long term, COSME should facilitate the granting of loans and financing through leasing agreements to between 220,000 to 330,000 SMEs for a total amount of €14-21bn, according to EDA forecasts.
Since 2016, and following the proliferation of calls for the development of a Defence Europe, EDA has endeavoured to study and promote the opportunities this programme represents for SMEs and defence clusters. A perspective that has now become reality, following the launch on September 13 of a first call for applications. For this inaugural edition, the European Commission hopes to select four projects with a total budget of €800,000. This unprecedented move in Europe, will aim to “intensify collaboration across borders with other industrial clusters” and “to develop and implement joint strategies in dual use technologies, products and services for non-European countries,” says the European Commission.
But to take advantage of the European manna, interested candidates must meet certain criteria. A European spirit requires that all candidates must be established within a Member State and undertake to integrate the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP), a sort of European cluster directory, in all industrial fields. Last, but not least, any candidate organisation must be composed of at least three clusters established in different Member States, one of which is directly related to defence.
Interestingly, the ECCP currently has only eight French clusters – only two more than Belgium – most of them from the aerospace industry. And they have not wasted their time, six groups having already been declared eligible for the COSME programme at the moment, including the SAFE cluster based in Aix-en-Provence. On the other hand, the French land defence industry, although gathered in major entities such as the GICAT or EDEN, remain absent.
So, interested? It is still time to forge partnerships and put together a dossier, the deadline for submission of applications being set at 17:00 on 13 December.
* for “COmpetitiveness of enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises”