Horizon 2020 – chances to reduce CBRNe risks

By Philippe Quevauviller, DG Migration and Home Affairs, European Commission, Brussels

“Policy development and implementation rely on effective interactions among policymakers, research, industry and practitioners in the EU Member States.”

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly € 80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). It is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, the “Europe 2020 flagship initiative”, aiming to secure Europe’s global competitiveness. By coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020 is helping to achieve this goal with emphasis on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges. It covers many different research programmes, among which the Secure Societies Programme, which is featured in this paper.

Philippe Quevauviller (Photo: private)

Objectives of the Secure Societies challenge.

The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation. Among the different thematic areas, the Secure Societies challenge focuses on the protection of citizens, society and economy as well as infrastructures and services. More specifically, through the development of new tools, technologies and methods, it aims to:
• enhance the resilience of our society against natural and man-made disasters and to develop novel solutions for the protection of critical infrastructure;
• fight crime and terrorism through the development of new forensic tools to the protection against explosives;
• improve border security including improved maritime border protection and supply chain security and support the Union’s external security policies including through conflict prevention and peace building, and
• provide enhanced cyber-security with activities ranging from secure information sharing to new assurance models, bringing together all security stakeholders with the active involvement of end-users.


CBRNe-related threats

Threats of either accidental or intentional character are regulated by a range of policies which involve security practitioners. They follow an integrated management approach which requires a solid support from research and innovation with tools, technologies, methods helping Member States to implement measures of prevention and preparedness, surveillance, response and recovery. But not all of the above research areas of the Secure Societies Programme cover CBRNe issues. This paper highlights some key CBRNe-related policy features and research areas covered by the ongoing H2020 calls for proposals (2016–2017).1

Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP)

Policy background
The new approach to the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP)2
aims to ensure a high degree of protection of EU infrastructures and increase their resilience against all threats and hazards, including CBRNe-related ones. Complementing the CIP policy, the guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure3
stipulate that the Union’s energy infrastructure should be upgraded in order to increase its resilience against such failure. Finally, creating the environment for safe transport is essential for European citizens. EU transport policies cover a wide range of security and safety policies in the air, road, maritime and rail areas which all relate to technical standards for preventing/detecting risks and responding to major threats, including terrorist attacks, crimes and accidents.

Disaster Resilience Societies (DRS)

Policy background
In the context of disaster risk management (DRM), the Union’s civil protection policy is mainly represented by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM)4
managed by DG ECHO, with an operational dimension coordinated by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC). This policy is linked to the United Nations’ Sendai Framework for Action 2015–2025 “Building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters”. It requires a scientific and technological support for the improvement of the effectiveness of systems for preventing, preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters, including
CBRNe-related ones (e.g. acts of terrorism and technological, radiological or environmental accidents, including marine pollution). This is complemented by the CBRN Action Plan5 (DG HOME) and the EU Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives6
which, while not legally-binding, identified Key Actions related to prevention and risk reduction, which are commonly accepted by Member States. This area is also prone to international cooperation, e.g. through the CBRNe Centres of Excellence initiative (DG DEVCO/ CBRN Coe).
In the area of major (industrial) accidents, the Directive 2012/18/EU the so-called “Seveso III” directive (DG ENV), imposes operators to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents and to limit their consequences for human health or the environment; it is focused on the unintentional (accidental, including natural hazards) potential events in the establishments, thus usually not related to intentional acts (attacks). In the health sector, the Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats to health (DG SANTE) addresses the preparedness and response planning, monitoring, early warning of, and combating serious cross-border threats to health, which besides pathogens include inter alia impacts of biological or chemical agents. Finally, the Drinking Water Directive (DWD)7
regulates the quality of water intended for human consumption (DG ENV), hence with the aim to protect human health by ensuring that drinking water at the consumer tap is wholesome and clean. Policy measures address all possible contamination causes, including from treatment and distribution, by setting strict minimum parametric values to be complied with at the consumer tap. They actually focus on safety aspects and do not deal with security threats.

Fight against crime and terrorism (FCT)

Policy background
Regarding the fight against crime and terrorism, the European Commission is not in charge of operational activities but supports and facilitates the activities of the security practitioners at the EU level. The main policy framework for this action is provided by the European Agenda on Security (COM(2015) 185 final) adopted on 28 April 2015, which provides strategic focus for the EU and Member States for the overall goal of strengthening the Union’s security framework. The three pillars of the Union’s action to obtain this goal are: to strengthen the information exchange; to increase the operational cooperation; and to provide support in training, funding, research and innovation. The main thematic priorities listed in the Agenda are: terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime, all of which may include CBRNe aspects, e.g. in the forensics sector.

Border and External Security (BES)

Policy background
Control of export and Union Custom Code are regulated through the Council Regulation (EC) N° 428/2009 on a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items8 (which may include CBRNe materials) is setting rules that Member States have to apply to control the transfer of certain dual-use items within the Community in order to safeguard public policy or public security. The increase in global terrorism has expanded customs to become a major player in the field of supply chain security. The deployment of detection technologies plays an essential role. Regarding border security, EUROSUR9
targets the development of technologies and capabilities which are required to enhance systems, equipment, tools, processes, and methods for rapid identification to improve border security, whilst respecting human rights and privacy, including both control and surveillance issues and promoting an enhanced use of new technology for border checks.

Horizon 2020: Some CBRNe research trends
Linked to the above policy framework, and built-up upon the legacy of major FP7 CBRN-related projects such as EDEN, GIFTCBRN etc. and H2020 on-going projects such as TOXI-TRIAGE, ROCSAFE etc., current DRS research priorities (2016-2017) turn around the need to secure our societies against any kind of disasters and improve related resilience. The objective of the DRS sub-call is to reduce the loss of human life, environmental, economic and material damage from natural and man-made disasters, including from extreme weather events, crime and terrorism threats, which obviously include CBRNe risks. In particular, at present the wide range of sectors, disciplines and actors involved in disaster risk management are not sufficiently interlinked, which prevents efficient response planning and the building of realistic multidisciplinary scenarios. Integrated tools hence need to be developed to support such actions. Stronger partnerships among research, policy, (research or monitoring) institutes, industry/SMEs communities and practitioners, in particular first responders, are required for better preparedness of societies to cope with complex crisis situations.

CIP call 2016-2017

Current CIP research priorities (2016–2017) of the Secure Societies Programme are focusing on prevention, detection, response and mitigation of the combination of physical and cyber threats to the critical infrastructure of Europe (CIP-01- 2016-2017). The broad scope will investigate how to tackle impacts of disruptions in the operation of critical infrastructures. The call will have to focus on one of the following critical infrastructures: water systems, energy infrastructure (power plants and distribution), transport infrastructure and means of transportation, communication infrastructure, health services, and financial services. Proposals should cover: prevention, detection, response, and in case of failure, mitigation of consequences (including novel installation designs) over the life span of the infrastructure. They should not only address in details all aspects of both physical (e.g. bombing, plane or drone overflights and crashes, spreading of fires, floods, seismic activity, space radiations, etc.) and cyber threats and incidents, but also systemic security management issues and the combinations of physical and cyber threats and incidents, their interconnections, and their cascading effects. Innovative methods should be proposed for sharing information with the public in the vicinity of the installations, and the protection of rescue teams, security and monitoring teams.

DRS call 2016–2017

Supporting the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the SEC-01-DRS-2016 call has been looking into improved response planning and scenario building in situations of emergency situations (including CBRNe related-ones), integrating support tools that can be used operationally by a large variety of decision-makers, back-office experts, and first responders and demonstrating them in representative and realistic environments and situations involving firefighting units, medical emergency services, police departments, and civil protection units. This was complemented by the SEC-02-DRS-2016 call dealing with situational awareness systems to support civil protection preparation and operational decision-making. A call specific to CBRN, namely “Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) cluster” has been launched in two steps (SEC-05-DRS-2016-2017) with the aim to help European companies to market their products globally (e.g. companies producing integrated equipment for First Responder’s, CBRN software systems, detectors, decontaminators, waste management and encapsulation equipment). A Coordinated Support Action called ENCIRCLE has been launched, which is now followed by a call for Research and Innovation Actions. The selected projects will benefit from commercial and other services provided by ENCIRCLE regarding access to the global market for their results. This should lead to a shorter time to market for novel CBRN technologies and innovations, and more business deals leading to industrial products of interest to more practitioners in Europe (and world-wide).


Policy development and implementation rely on effective interactions among policy-makers, research, industry (including SMEs) and practitioners (first responders, civil protection units, police forces etc.) in the EU Member States. This requires a proper exchange of information and communication about either policy updates or (research) project results, which should be tailor-made to different sectors concerned with the goal of enhancing the transfer of research solutions or new policy recommendations to users in a timely and relevant fashion. Such exchanges are also needed to identify and address users’ needs regarding research, technologies and policies, in order to better design funding programmes at an EU level. Finally, a proper transfer of knowledge from research to policy and operational sectors may have a positive impact on policy formulation and review. In this respect, the European Commission through the (DG HOME H2020/Secure Societies Programme is developing (since 2014) an initiative to build a “Community of Users on Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies” which aim to establish a mechanism of information transfer about projects from different thematic areas such as CBRNe, and enable a dialogue to be established among policy-makers, scientists, industry/SMEs, and practitioners. This initiative should help improving the uptake of research outputs and built up synergies in different thematic areas. In the CBRNe sector, such synergies are illustrated by close working relationships established among the above mentioned FP7 and H2020 projects.

Philippe Quevauviller has been Research Programming and Policy Officer in the Directorate General on Home Affairs of the European Commission since 2015. Holding two PhD in oceanography and environmental chemistry, he has been a researcher in chemical oceanography from 1984 to 1989, working at the University of Bordeaux, then at the Portuguese Environment Ministry in Lisbon, and at the Dutch Ministry for Public Works in The Hague. Mr Quevauviller joined the European Commission in April 1989, firstly as a Scientific Officer at the Research General Directorate, then as a Policy Officer at the Environment Directorate-General in 2002. In October 2008, he went back to the Research General Directorate where he managed research projects on climate change impacts on water systems/resources and natural hazards. In April 2013, Mr Quevauviller moved to the Secure Societies Programme (firstly at DG Enterprise, then DG Home Affairs since early 2015) where he is responsible for programming and managing security research projects, in particular on disaster risk and crisis management (natural catastrophes, accidents, terrorist threats).

1. Further information about past and on-going research funded under the 7th
Framework Programme (2007-2013) and the H2020 2014-205 calls for proposals
is available in a recently published mapping document available here

2. SWD(2013) 318 final

3. Regulation (EU) no 347/2013 of 17 April 2013, OJ L115/39 of 25.04.2013

4. Decision 1313/2013

5. COM(2009) 273 final and COM(2014) 247 final

6. Doc. 8109/08

7. Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption, OJ L 330, 5.12.1998, p. 32

8. OJ L 134/1 of 29.05.2009

9. COM(2008) 68 final

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