EDA has taken over the role of project manager of the Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Surveillance Reconnaissance Surveillance System (CBRN RSS) project which is being funded and implemented under the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).

The decision was made following a request by Austria on behalf of the four Member States participating in a related PESCO project, the Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Surveillance as a Service (CBRN SaaS) project, which is already supported by EDA since 2019. In this new role, the Agency will not only manage all CBRN RSS implementation activities with the consortium, but also interact with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) in relation to this project.

With the aim of targeting capability development through the support of innovation and competitiveness of the Union’s defence industry, the EDIDP 2020 calls for proposals, of which CBRN RSS was part of, sought to fund 26 projects from an array of defence domains with a broad geographical coverage. Since the first call in 2019, the EDIDP has shown its success becoming a strategic enabler for Europe’s defence.

From PESCO to Category B CBRN SaaS project
The CBRN project area can be traced back to 2019 when, for this first time, EDA was chosen to support the CBRN SaaS PESCO project. This decision resulted in the establishment of a so-called ‘Category B’ project within the Agency with four Member States participating (Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia). Under this new establishment, and as requested by the participants EDA further developed the project with the signature of a contract with the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) as the consortium leader. The aim of the CBRN SaaS project, within the EDA framework, is to develop a technological demonstrator to deliver a recognised CBRN picture that will enhance knowledge-based decision-making for operations. The main deliverable will achieve the Initial Operational Capability of the PESCO project, which is aimed to be attained by the mid-2024.

In the meantime, a new opportunity arose to even further develop the CBRN SaaS.  Indeed, in 2020, AIT used the EDIDP calls to submit a proposal for expanding the project into a Reconnaissance Surveillance System. With success, because in July 2021,  the CBRN RSS proposal was accepted as eligible. In addition, an EDIDIP Grant Agreement was signed in December 2021 between DG DEFIS and the respective industry consortium – represented by AIT as the consortium leader. Even though CBRN SaaS and CBRN RSS are implemented through different channels (EDIDP and EDA respectively), they are complementary and aligned in such a way that the contract under EDA’s Category B project is set to deliver a basic version of the technological demonstrator, while an enhanced version will be provided by the EDIDP project. In practice, this means that at the end, only one single technological demonstrator will be assembled. The main difference between both projects is therefore the funding schemes under which they fall. Timewise, both projects aim at achieving their expected results by  mid- 2024.

EDA as project manager
The fact that EDA has been tasked to also manage the CBRN RSS project is testament to the participating Member States’ confidence in the Agency, but it also reflects EDA’s commitment and persistence to further support Member States in developing their capability spectrum. The RSS project will take its first step with the kick-off meeting between the European Commission, Industry Consortium, Member States, and EDA on 13 January.

EDA’s role as project manager of the CBRN RSS EDIDP project is envisaged within two different spheres. On the one hand, and within the EDIDP overall project, EDA will act as the primary interface between Member States, the industry consortium, the European Commission, and third parties. This task will also see EDA  overseeing the implementation of the project on behalf of the participating Member States, including the supervision and validation of work packages as well as the management of schedules. On the other hand, EDA has also been tasked to act as the Programme Security Instruction (PSI) custodian within the security framework of the EDIDP project, which requires not only the coordination of requests by Member States, but also ensuring the compliance of the PSI provisions.

The new project manager role confirms EDA’s willingness to break new ground and take on new functions and responsibilities wherever it helps to bring forward collaborative European defence capability development.