Opportunities for SMEs in the European Defence Fund

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 June, 2023 at 9:28 am by Andre Camilleri

Matthias Portelli

The European Defence Fund (EDF) promotes cooperation among companies and research actors of all sizes and covers all EU Member States and regions, in research and development of state-of-the-art and interoperable defence technology and equipment. The EDF supports competitive and collaborative projects throughout the entire cycle of research and development to leverage a bigger impact on the European defence capability and industrial landscape.

Furthermore, the EDF positively  encourages participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in collaborative projects and fosters breakthrough innovative solutions. The EDF has an inbuild mechanism that incentivise  traditional consortia to open up their supply chains to innovative SMEs.

The fund plays a key role to enable SMEs to participate in defence supply chains and to widen cross-border industrial cooperation. It provides opportunities to companies of all sizes, to drive innovative solutions, foster an open internal market and thus also contributes to the Union’s competitiveness. The fund spans beyond defence. It is an adequate tool also  for a wide range of technological research and development which goes well beyond the traditional defensive and industrial sectors an example being cybersecurity and maritime surveillance . 

The Commission has recently launched the newly EDF 2023 Work Programme which will provide a total budget of €1.2 billion for defence RD&I. This covers 34 topics structured along four thematic calls for proposal, as well as three bottom-up calls focused on disruptive technologies and SMEs. It targets defence technologies and capabilities in line with the EU capability priorities commonly agreed by Member States.

The EDF provides financial support, mainly through grants, to collaborative R&D projects. The fund can support 100% of the total eligible costs of a research action. Furthermore, it can provide support to a development action which may vary between 20% and 100% of its total eligible costs depending on the activities covered (e.g. design, prototyping, testing, qualification, certification) and on a bonus system (involvement of SMEs and mid-caps). An increased funding rate is also offered to projects developed in the context of the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

The 2023 calls are expected to open for submission on the 15th June 2023 with a deadline for submission of 22 November 2023. Meanwhile, an information day and a networking event will take place on 28-29 June, 2023. SMEs who are interested to learn more on the funding opportunities and eligibility criteria are invited to visit this link  or to email the national contact on euaffairs@maltaenterprise.com

Matthias Portelli is EU Affairs intern at Malta Enterprise.

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