Incubation Forum for Circular Economy in European Defence workshop looks at EU dependency on critical raw materials for defence


Some 90 experts from across Europe met on 15 March for a workshop organised under the European Defence Agency-managed Incubation Forum for Circular Economy in European Defence (IF CEED) to discuss the crucial question of Europe’s dependency on critical raw materials that are relevant to defence.
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Some 90 experts from across Europe met on 15 March for a workshop organised under the European Defence Agency-managed Incubation Forum for Circular Economy in European Defence (IF CEED) to discuss the crucial question of Europe’s dependency on critical raw materials that are relevant to defence. (Picture source: EDA)


The workshop built on the consolidated work of EDA’s Materials CapTech to discuss and assess how circularity can contribute to reducing those dependencies. The event gathered representatives from Member States’ Ministries of Defence, the defence industry, research institutes and centres, foundations and universities. Specific contributions were also made by the European Commission’s DG DEFIS and DG GROW as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Participants discussed circularity principles and defence supply chain specificities, and addressed concrete ideas, for instance how critical raw materials could be recycled from Li-ion batteries and superalloys, or how alternative coatings could be used in the production of specific parts of defence equipment. The idea is that the IF CEED’s joint discussions and activities, coupled with the identification of possible funding and financing sources, will help trigger concrete collaborative projects with a clear and coherent roadmap.

The CapTech Materials & Structures (Materials CapTech in short) main objective is to support the European armed forces on current and future challenges within these areas of research, in close collaboration with the other EDA CapTechs and other international institutions (e.g. European Commission, European Space Agency (ESA)) and organisations (e.g. NATO).

The CapTech Materials & Structures covers underpinning technologies on structures and materials. Although there is no generally accepted definition of engineering materials, the Materials CapTech has selected the following material categories as being relevant:
• Signature materials (to deny the enemy detection and identification)
• Energy (specifically batteries, more generally energy harvesting)
• Replacement (to substitute for obsolete/no longer available materials) [Note: previously called obsolescence];
• Structural materials
• Blue sky (emerging materials too immature to naturally place into other categories)
• Manufacturing technology
• Non-destructive testing
• In-service performance
• REACH compliance
• Surface treatments
• Modelling
• Protection (armour)

The work of Materials CapTech is generally in the range of starting Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 2 to 4, but higher TRL levels are also considered, and the ambition for the TRL could go up to 8 in specific cases. CapTech Materials & Structures projects aim to develop technology on materials and structures, production processes, test procedures and solutions that are applicable in one or more of the four defined key areas. The work of the CapTech is technology-pushed, but also capability-driven, mainly by the CDP (Capability Development Plan), and the CDP Priorities valid at a moment in time.

The need for detailed knowledge about materials, provided by Materials CapTech, is relevant for several of the “system” CapTechs. Vice versa, knowledge of system performance and capability requirements is crucial for Materials CapTech to identify future needs and requirements. There is, hence, a close relationship between Materials CapTech and the other CapTechs.

Research orientation

The activities of the CapTech Materials & Structures are guided by the Materials CapTech Strategic Research Agenda (SRA). The Materials CapTech started by identifying a number of technology gaps and attempted to prioritise these in a way which stimulates multilateral R&T collaboration, bearing in mind possible synergies with organisations including ESA, NATO and EC programmes. The agreed way ahead was through clustering by domain around programmes to allow a more focused approach. From there, technology gaps could be established and translated into a technology roadmap. Four key areas or domains have been defined: air systems, naval systems, land systems (including soldier systems) and cross-cutting technologies. The clustering process has been also expanded to include the area of critical defence technologies. A total of 24 areas for future work are identified, 5 in the Air system domain, 6 in the Naval system domain, 4 in the Land system domain and 9 in the Cross-cutting domain. These 24 areas have been merged in 10 Technology Building Blocks (TBBs), following the dimensions of the Overarching Strategic Research Agenda Methodology (OSRA), such as operational relevance (CDP) and disruptive innovation.

TBB01 - Light Weight for High Performance Structures
TBB02 - Materials, structures for Protection Against Military Threats
TBB03 - High temperature materials
TBB04 - Camouflage and signature management technologies
TBB05 - Emerging materials for future platforms
TBB06 – Materials, structures & concepts for platform monitoring
TBB07 – New manufacturing, joining and repair processes
TBB08 – Surface engineering for maximum lifetime and/or hostile environments
TBB09 – Advanced and smart textiles for soldier systems and platform
TBB10 - Computational Design and materials modelling

Activity description

The Materials CapTech meetings are held 3 times per year, with a maximum duration of 2 days. All the information is shared in its Workspace. Prior or right after a CapTech meeting, a workshop or seminar might take place. The Workshops objectives are to achieve concrete outcomes, such as the preparation of a project or fulfilment of an extraordinary request (topics for calls for proposals, SRA development, technology assessment, etc.). The workshops are “hands-on” and participative. On the other hand, the seminars objective is to raise the awareness and knowledge about a specific technology identified in the CapTech, and gain insight on the potential of that technology for defence applications. Subject matter experts will be invited as speakers.

To become a Materials CapTech member (CGE or CnGE), please follow the instructions included in the EDA CapTechs general site and be aware that your request will be forwarded to the relevant CNC. The approval of the CNC will be needed to become a CGE or CnGE.

Based on the SRA, any CapTech member can propose ideas for new activities (projects, workshops, seminars, etc.) at any meeting. The ideas are collected and, if not immediately detailed with clear expression of interest, it is the role of the moderator to persist and revisit what remains to then re-launch or definitively archive an idea. The active involvement of non-governmental members in proposing solutions for governmental needs, with a consistent and systematic ground for dialogue can definitely encourage cooperation.


 

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