Advisory report 3: Government support for Dual Use and Military R&D&I
On the 6th of February 2018, the Flemish Advisory Council for Innovation & Enterprise received a request for advice from Mr. Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister of Innovation and Economy, concerning the desirability of updating the guideline of 1994 on the support for research projects with possible military affinity, the so-called guideline Van den Brande.
After thorough research on the problem in an international context, VARIO concludes that an update of the guidelines is necessary and this for the following reasons:
- There is ambiguity with respect to the guidelines, which creates room for interpretation. Consequently, the guidelines are often interpreted too strictly.
- The geopolitical context has changed significantly since the 90ies. The threat assessment is more complex, more diverse and more uncertain, putting safety and defence higher on the political agenda.
- Also at technological level a lot has changed since the 90ies. The distinction between civil and military technology fades, and almost all technology can (hypothetically) be used for civil as well as military purposes.
In short, the guidelines hamper innovative paths in general and the development of dual use technologies in particular. They have an impact on the competitiveness of the Flemish companies. The more, as the neighbouring countries and the European Union do not have a similar restrictive guideline with respect to dual use.
VARIO proposes to start with a clean slate, to abolish the guidelines and create a new and clear framework which takes ethical aspects into account. The VARIO-proposal for this new framework distinguishes between the support for dual use R&D&I and military R&D&I (Research, Development and Innovation).
For dual use R&D&I, further differentiation is made according to the share of civil/military application:
- Dual use R&D&I with mainly civil applications is a non-issue and must receive financial support from Flemish public resources.
- Dual use R&D&I with partly civil and partly military applications should be supported with Flemish public resources provided that an ethical screening is carried out (by an ethics commission).
R&D&I with a military finality usually involves a government as an end consumer/user, and often co-financing is a prerequisite for participation. Participation to European and federal initiatives with military finality should be made possible according to VARIO, so that Flemish actors would not miss out on opportunities. Of course, considering ethical aspects. Which policy level - in this case the federal (defence and homeland security) or regional (economics and innovation) - should provide the co-financing, should be discussed in the context of a strategic consultation between policy levels.