Innovation in Cyprus Defence

By Alex Cutler
Published on 28 Sep 2021

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In mid-September, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) held a two-day workshop event on research and innovation, with over 40 SMEs, research centres and academic institutions participating. The overarching objective of the workshop was an enhanced understanding of the MoD’s operational needs as well as the private sector’s capacity to meet them. Operational needs included unmanned vehicles, radar, radar jamming, and renewable energy sources and storage meanwhile attending organisations offered products and services in the fields of UAVs, cybersecurity, radar, virtual reality technology and robotics. Future projects in the defence sector are expected to benefit by the European Defence Fund (EDF), much like preceding projects benefited from the EDF’s precursor, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). Unlike the EDIDP, which had a limited scope and resources, the EDF will dedicate €8bn from the EU’s 2021-2027 multiannual budget for defence projects, specifically €2.7bn for research and €5.3bn for development.

On a national level, the MoD has recently carried out the ‘ATHINA’ programme which funded the THISEAS and DroneEye research projects, each receiving roughly €450,000. In addition, the MoD and RIF, the research and innovation foundation of Cyprus, will collaborate on two programmes worth a combined €3m. Funded by the national recovery and resilience plan, these projects will upgrade the capabilities of Cypriot research and innovation institutions to maintain the presence of Cypriot projects in the EU’s Horizon and EDF funding programmes. Alongside the progress of the public sector, SMEs, start-ups and research centres have developed an array of products and solutions aimed at meeting or capable of adapting to the defence sector’s operational needs. Areas covered during the event included cybersecurity by Malloc and Cognitive UX, advanced composite materials by AmaDema, biotech by EMBIO Diagnostics, virtual reality and simulation by Ascanio and SilverSky 3D, and unmanned vehicles by Cyprus Subsea and CYRIC.

Nascent as the MoD’s initiatives may be, they are pointing in the right direction not only for the National Guard of Cyprus but for innovation as a whole. When one takes into consideration the high technological demands in defence, the public sector’s embrace of innovation, coupled with synergies with the private sector have the potential to contribute to the local innovation ecosystem. Such goals should not be seen as far-fetched, since only a few hundred miles away from Cyprus, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has developed a reputation as a ‘national incubator’. In an article by The Times of Israel, the IDF’s largest unit, responsible for cybersecurity, Unit 8200, and the Interactive Learning Technology Section unit were identified as key suppliers of future cybersecurity and mobile app entrepreneurs. Of course, there are a multitude of elements playing in Israel’s favour, whether political, economical or cultural, however, the logic of using one’s defence sector to foster and encourage innovation has been tried and tested with considerable success. With the National Guard’s priorities outlined, the MoD’s newfound willingness to embrace innovation as well as national and EU level funding it’s now a case of translating these objectives from desirability to feasibility.