Irish groups lead EU in FP7 security research projects

16 Aug 2012

Irish security research groups won more than €7m in funding for EU Seventh Framework security research programmes for 2011-2012 – putting the country in joint first place with Finland among EU-27 nations on a cash-per-capita basis.

This is the fifth year in a row that security research groups in the Republic have upped their percentage of funding in FP7 Security, winning 2.9pc of the total EC budget or €7,026,401 out of the €240m on offer.

It’s the best performance to date from Irish researchers in FP7. In 2010, Ireland ranked sixth out of the EU-27, receiving €3,399,444, which was 1.58pc of the total budget. Last year it reached fourth place, winning €4,472,292, or 1.84pc, of the total.

Northern Ireland won 1pc or €2,438,325 of the total expenditure. If it were ranked separately on a cash-per-capita basis, it would be third among the EU-27. Superintendent Gerald Murray of the PSNI co-ordinated a winning proposal dubbed HOMER, or Homemade Explosives and Recipes Characterisation, which also included participants from Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin.

Five projects made the cut, out of 15 submissions. The 33pc success rate of co-ordinators from the island of Ireland was almost double the European average of close to 18pc.

Five of the 13successful projects have partners from both the Republic and Northern Ireland. One of these, HARMONISE [Holistic Approach to Resilience and Systematic Actions to make Large Scale UrbaN Built Infrastructure Secure], is led by Downey Hynes Partnership, is a Dublin-based specialist in urban planning – making HARMONISE one of the few FP7 projects guided by a SME.

In addition to co-ordinating one successful winning proposal for this year, Downey Hynes Partnership is also taking part in the COBACORE project (Community Based Comprehensive Recovery). The company won projects in 2010 and 2011, giving it a 100pc record of four wins from four attempts.

Three other Irish SMEs were successful for the first time: Cork-based Compliance & Risks, along with Saadian Technologies and Espion, both based in Dublin.

‘Highly satisfactory’ performance for Ireland

Dr Michael Murphy, the Enterprise Ireland contact point for FP7 security, called the 2011-2012 performance “highly satisfactory”. In a briefing note, he said: “By drawing on points of innovation across a diverse community we continue to demonstrate an ability not just to compete but to outperform in a sector where we don’t have a high profile,” he said.

One word of caution was that a single project, VOX-Pol, accounted for close to half the income accruing to the Republic of Ireland. Murphy said this highlights a potential risk.

“We need further to grow the security community, to network more effectively into mainland Europe and to co-ordinate more large proposals. Despite these challenges, the target for next year is to increase yet again our budget share from the EC and to finish outright first in Europe,” he said.

Another sign of the sector’s good health is the growing ranks of the Irish Security Research Network [SERENITY] which now has more than 700 members, up from 500 two years ago. The group acts as a point of contact for looking at possibilities of EC funding and to see how participation in FP7 projects could help to grow exports.

That’s the next challenge, according to Murphy: translating FP7 success into start-up activity and new security businesses. One possible example might be a cluster around the area of digital forensics – one of “several others” under consideration, he added.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic