Since 2007, the EU has invested over 3 billion euro in security research, which has to date led to over 600 projects supported through EU funding in areas related to disasters risk reduction, infrastructure protection, fight against crime and terrorism and border security. Project outputs have materialized in different ways, such as relevant scientific findings, the maturation of promising technology areas, the operational validation of innovative concepts or the support to policy implementation. Throughout the years, a strong security research community integrated by highly committed stakeholders has been consolidated. Policy makers, practitioners, industry, scientists and citizens are the pillars on which a sound security research agenda is built that then feeds into the programmatic effort. The dialogue with those who define the security priorities and those who have the productive capacity is what guarantees that research addresses not only real needs, but also that the investment in research will deliver tangible results. In an aim to facilitate interactions within the research community, the Commission established in 2014 the Community of Users for Safe, Secure and Resilient Societies (CoU). This informal platform currently reaches out around 1500 practitioners (policy makers, end users, academia, industry and civil society) and regularly holds thematic events with the objectives to inter alia: Ensure that research programming takes into account practitioners' needs, thereby promoting research results that are relevant to them; identify the most promising tools (particularly those developed in FP7 and H2020 projects) that have the potential to be taken up by practitioners; support the competitiveness of EU industry by increasing the visibility of the market for research results; ensure that the expertise of practitioners is available to policy makers, thereby facilitating the policy-making process; and support policy implementation.
The CoU addresses different categories of stakeholders: policy–makers, scientists, industry (including SMEs), practitioners from training and operational units (first responders, operators etc.), civil society organisations. In 2019, consolidating the developments from 2014, activities were structured around specific Thematic Groups which were established by grouping together homogenous security related topics. In 2020, a governance mechanism was designed, which is expected to take place from 2021 onward. This will structure the CoU development into a forum strengthening current networks and delivering concrete outputs to Horizon Europe in the area of security research1. The updated approach hence foresees the development of a permanent CoU Expert Group structured in different Thematic Working Groups (ThWGs) related to five of the Thematic Areas of the Horizon Europe’s Security Research Programme2, namely Infrastructure Protection (INFRA), Disaster Resilient Societies (DRS), Fight Against Crime and Terrorism (FCT), Border Management (BM) and Strengthened Security Research and Innovation (SSRI). Members of this CoU Expert Group will operate as a Coordination Board for the CoU, involving representatives of relevant International and EU Policy entities. The aim of this new approach is to establish a structured bottom-up / top-down flow that will inter alia contribute to the development of a consolidated civil security research agenda under the Horizon Europe framework (2021-2027).
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