11 Jun 2024

Europe, A Secure & Digital Powerhouse: Recommendations for the digitalisation of defence


This report arrives at a critical juncture. It doesn’t merely explore the potential of digital technologies in defence – it champions it.

Both the EU and NATO have designated certain emerging and disruptive technologies as critical to our security. Both have also piloted new funding schemes to promote early-stage innovators.

As a member of the Advisory Group to the Secretary General of NATO on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies, I’ve witnessed first-hand the transformative power of digital innovation in defence. Seeing NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) and the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF) take off fills me with pride.

It is a testament to joint action, embodying both the strength of collaboration and the transformative power of innovation for our collective defence.

However, DIANA and NIF are just the beginning. The challenges Europe is facing demand a truly European response. We can and must do more. In our recent manifesto, we called for a 25% funding target for digital across EU and NATO funds.

A digital watershed is needed, a moment where we break free from fragmented efforts and embrace a European approach to fostering dual-use technological innovation. Relying solely on reactive measures like export controls and investment screening is insufficient. By the time investigations are complete, valuable IP may already be in the wrong hands. We must offer our most valuable companies attractive incentives to collaborate, including direct buyouts or strategic partnerships. By presenting a clear win-win scenario, we can give friendly companies an immediate option to join the ‘right side of history.’

Imagine a stronger European Investment Fund (EIF), with a reinforced mandate to support the development of cutting-edge technologies that have both civilian and military applications. Imagine a network of European innovation hubs, fostering collaboration and knowledge transfer across borders. Imagine a Europe where we coordinate tax incentives on critical technologies. This is the future we must build.

Finally, whilst Member States collectively spend €240 billion on defence procurement, procurement schemes are highly nationalised. Transitioning to a system of EU-wide funding will help defragment the EU’s capabilities.

This report serves as a roadmap towards that future. It details the immense potential of digital technologies to reinforce European defence – from enhanced battlefield awareness to sophisticated cyber resilience. But it goes beyond mere technology. It emphasises the need for a strategic shift, a shared EU vision that leverages our collective strengths.

The time for complacency is over. Member States are called upon to act with urgency and unity. Let this report be a catalyst, a rallying cry for a more robust, digitally powered EU defence. Let us rise to this challenge, for the sake of our continent and the security of generations to come.

Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General DIGITALEUROPE         

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For further information, please contact
Chris Ruff
Director for Political Outreach & Communications
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