Faced with a changing world order and buffeted by a slew of political crises and terrorist attacks, the historically civilian European Union is bolstering its military capabilities. And that means making its first major investment in military research. On 1 December, the European Parliament approved a €25-million ($26-million) fund dedicated to military research. It will form part of a proposed broader European Defence Fund, aimed at making military innovation more efficient and enlarging Europe’s industrial defense base.
The research portion of the fund will cover electronics, advanced materials (including metamaterials for photonics), encrypted software and robotics. The European Commission, the EU’s policymaking arm, expects to invest a total of €90 million by 2020. It hopes the figure will rise to €500 million a year for defence research from 2021. The sum is dwarfed by the EU’s major research-funding programme, Horizon 2020, which will hand out €80 billion over 7 years, the €8.8 billion spent by EU member states on defence research in 2014, and what the United States and probably China spend on defence research.