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Monday 3rd October 2011
O'Callaghan Davenport Hotel
Merrion Square, Dublin

Opening Address by Minister for Defence Mr. Alan Shatter T.D.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today to mark the opening of this Seminar hosted by Enterprise Ireland, Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. This is a historic first seminar in what I hope and plan to be a continuing dialogue and cooperative venture bringing together Irish and European expertise in the area of defence capability development. In that regard, I welcome officials from the European Defence Agency and its Chief Executive Madam Claude France Arnould who will provide a key note address outlining the work being undertaken by the Agency in the areas of research and industry in the European Security and Defence Markets.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank officials in Enterprise Ireland and in my own Department for organising this seminar and for giving me the opportunity to present the opening address.

In the context of today’s discussion, we are joined by a range of expert speakers from Academia, Industry and the European Defence Agency. There will also be time, during the extensive and comprehensive agenda, for you to meet with colleagues from the various Agencies, institutions and State bodies represented here today and for informal discussions that I hope will yield positive results for Ireland and for the European project.

Just a few words on the work of the European Defence Agency (EDA) which, I am sure, will be elaborated on by our EDA guest speakers. The EDA’s primary task is to “to support the Member States and the Council in their effort to improve European defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the European Security and Defence Policy as it stands now and develops in the future”. As such, the EDA plays a key role in identifying and overcoming shortfalls in capability development that would inhibit the Union from achieving the capacity to undertake appropriate crisis management missions.

During Ireland’s Presidency of the European Union in 2004, the then Government approved Ireland’s participation in the EDA. The main reason for Ireland’s participation in the EDA is to support the ongoing development of Defence Forces capabilities for crisis management and international Peace Support Operations. Our participation was also predicated on the opportunity to deliver efficiencies in equipment procurement and capability development. In the context of its role in supporting such efficiencies, I look forward to the Agency’s proposals for increased pooling and sharing to deliver cost effective capabilities, training and equipment to its participating member States, at a time of reducing Defence budgets across the Union as a whole. Ireland has much to contribute to this effort and much to gain from it. The EDA also affords Ireland and our Defence Forces the opportunity to keep abreast of leading edge technology in capability developments in consultation with other participating Member States.

Since its inception, the Agency has made significant progress on many military capability projects and programmes in support of EU crisis management. Ireland participated in the first Joint Investment Programme on Force Protection, which was launched by the Agency in 2007. This Programme focuses on technologies for personal protection and on protecting EU armed forces against threats such as snipers, booby traps and improvised explosive devices. Ireland’s participation in this programme will directly inform capability development and procurement for the Defence Forces in the next five to fifteen years, both in terms of, improving Defence Forces knowledge and understanding of advances in these project areas, and in giving the Defence Forces access to the European security and defence research and industrial community.

While Ireland’s primary reason for involvement in this programme is to improve Defence Forces capability, it is notable that Ireland’s participation in this programme also yielded a financial return for Ireland, whereby an Irish Company won contracts to the value of €750,000. This represented an additional financial return of 107% to Ireland. It is my strong belief that a more concerted effort by Ireland in promoting its research and development capability in this field could deliver an even greater return on such investment. This is one of the reasons I am here today to launch this information seminar.

Ireland has significant capacity in research and technology development generally, including within the civilian security sector. With the increasing integration of and cross over between civilian and military technology development, there are now significant opportunities to leverage existing civil technology development in Ireland in the military capability development field. Enterprise Ireland and the Defence Forces have recently been authorised by Government to pursue such initiatives in concert with the EDA and are ready to support and advise on opportunities available and to support these through information, briefings and industrial support.

In the case of Defence Forces capability development opportunities, my Department, in association with Enterprise Ireland, now provides a valuable and important link for Irish research and industry to the leading edge capability development efforts of the European Defence Agency. While the Agency has a limited budget, the links to other European States’ efforts and the wider European industrial and research efforts in the area of security and defence, introduces another potential market for Irish industry and research institutions. I would urge you to seek to avail of all the opportunities which are being delivered by these developments at national and European level. Just as there is an increased engagement between the European Commission and the EDA on industrial and research development, within Ireland we must also look to the potential read across from existing Framework 7 initiatives in the security sector and EDA initiatives in the defence field which can leverage internal synergies and an increased return on investment to Ireland.

It is Government policy that we promote and support investment in technology research and development and that we put in place incentives for companies engaged in research and development. A robust and competitive research and development environment is key to helping economic recovery and therefore it is Government policy to nurture and develop this important sector. The Government provides over €800 million per annum to support science and technological development in the State’s many research organisations. Such investment has been critical to the development of Ireland as an internationally recognised base of research excellence.

Through Enterprise Ireland, the Government is driving efforts to use research and innovation to deliver economic benefits. In this regard, the Government provided almost €70 million in the last 12 months to encourage companies to engage in Research and Development and to facilitate the commercialisation of publicly-funded research. The key objective is to enable companies to collaborate with researchers to produce valuable solutions to their technological challenges and to develop new products and services with export potential. To this end, Enterprise Ireland has put in place a national technology transfer system to harness the commercial outputs of research from publicly-funded Irish research institutions for the benefit of industry.

There are many industries in Ireland that are already involved in the security market, and who benefit from their involvement in the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7, which is co-ordinated by Enterprise Ireland. Through our participation in this programme we plan to achieve an ambitious national target of €600 million in funding drawn down for our companies and higher education researchers by 2013. I believe that Ireland’s competence in key research fields will ensure that we are well placed to participate fully in any opportunities presented for the ongoing development of military capabilities through the EDA.

The Government also recently approved Ireland’s participation in two EDA projects, which was approved last week by Dail Eireann. One of the projects relates to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Protection and the other relates to Maritime Surveillance. Both of these projects will contribute to Defence Forces capability. The Defence Forces in their presentations later this morning will elaborate further on these specific projects. Enterprise Ireland will promote and manage Irish Research and Development participation in these two EDA projects, in association with the Department of Defence.

For industry and Research Institutions, today will afford an opportunity to hear from the Defence Forces about specific capabilities that they require and the programmes and projects that the Defence Forces are currently engaged in to meet the shortfalls that they have identified. There are opportunities for greater cooperation and collaboration between the Defence Forces, Enterprise Ireland, Industry and Research Institutions to support the development of systems and technologies in niche areas for the enhancement of our Defence Forces capabilities and for EU capabilities in crisis management. My department and the Defence Forces are now working closely with Enterprise Ireland to enhance such capabilities using Irish based companies and technological research.

Where appropriate and within the resources available, there are potential opportunities for companies to field-test equipment and systems using Defence Forces Platforms such as Naval Service Vessels. For example, a secure mobile phone communications system that has been developed here in Ireland, is currently is being tested by the Naval Service.

Today will also afford industry and research institutions here in Ireland a first opportunity to engage with the EDA, to hear about the work they are engaged in and, to explore the potential opportunities available across the European Union.

As I said at the outset, I see this seminar as a historic first in a productive engagement involving our Defence Forces, Enterprise Ireland and the European Union in the development and delivery of leading edge research and capability for the Defence Forces and for EU crisis management operations more generally.

In conclusion, I would hope that this seminar will afford all concerned the opportunity to become more informed of ongoing capability development opportunities which support the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. It is my wish that this forum will yield positive results for Academia, Research Institutions and Industry at national and European level.

I wish you well in your discussions and deliberations.


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