18 Dec 2013   |   News

€1.69B for security research on cybercrime, natural disasters and better border security

‘Secure societies - protecting the freedom and security of Europe and its citizens’, may seem an unlikely theme for scientific research. Science|Business looks at what is involved in the first calls of this Horizon 2020 programme

With the first calls for Horizon 2020, the EU’s R&D programme for 2014-2020 now open, researchers across Europe are busy preparing proposals and dissecting the opportunities for funding available under each work programme. Here, Science|Business looks at what sort of research is envisaged in ‘Secure Societies’, which will receive €1.69 billion to improve Europe’s border control, cyber security and disaster resilience systems, while also exploiting new technologies and social media networks to combat terrorism.

The research and innovation activities funded will have an exclusive focus on civil applications, although Horizon 2020 will put a stronger emphasis on dual-use technologies, including the development of technical standards for interoperable communications between civil and military operators.        

The three calls launched last week, December 11, will see €47 million spent on digital security in 2014, focusing on basic research but also on the economic and societal dimension of security and privacy in the digital ecosystem.  

The other three pillars of the programme: disaster resilience, fighting crime and terrorism, and border security, will be launched in early 2014. Each of these calls will have a section dedicated to social sciences and humanities, including research into the social, psychological and economic aspects leading to organised crime and terrorism, and the role new social media networks could play in national security. 

Safeguarding societies from disasters, from climate change to terrorism

Over €168 million will be spent in the first two years of Horizon 2020 to fund R&D aimed at improving Europe’s resilience to natural and manmade disasters, reducing loss of human life and the environmental, economic and material damage caused.

There will be a focus on developing new technologies and running large-scale demonstrations across five topics: crisis management, disaster resilience, critical infrastructure protection, communication technologies and the ethical and social dimension.

SME can benefit from a specific call for small scale demonstrations of technologies and tools covering any aspect of urban critical infrastructure protection, such as designing resilient buildings and protecting energy grids.

Using technology to confront crime and terrorism

This part of the programme will fund researchers looking at new technologies to fight and prevent crime, as well as illegal trafficking and terrorism. The budget of €75.16 million over the first two years will include research into exploiting big data for forensic investigations and projects that aim to get a greater understanding of terrorists’ ideas and beliefs. Calls will be divided into four parts: forensics, law enforcement capabilities, urban security, and the ethical and societal dimension.

Improving the security of Europe’s borders

This call aims to improve the methods and systems used by officials at Europe’s borders to identify risks faster, such as projects to identify low-flying aircraft, research to explore the possibility of using biometric data, for example DNA string, in e-passport chips, in place of fingerprints or photos.

Research will also focus on supporting the EU’s external security policies in civilian tasks, such as humanitarian relief. 

With a budget of €59 million in the first two years, calls will centre around six topics: maritime border security, border crossing points, supply chain security, information management in the context of external security, conflict prevention and peace building, and the ethical and social dimension.

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