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  • Amy Murphy

What is the European Defence Fund: The EU’s instrument for defence innovation

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

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This article delves into the European Defence Fund (EDF), explains its main pillars, and provides information about EDF budget, eligibility, TRL, regulation and 2023 work programme.

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What is EDF in the European Union?

In recent years, Europe has witnessed a surge in political instability, mirroring global trends. Notably, Russia's aggressive actions towards Ukraine have posed the most significant threat to European security and stability since the Cold War. Recognizing the escalating instability and its global implications, the European Union (EU) has made it a priority to stimulate innovation in the defence sector.

To address this need, the EU has introduced the EDF which stands for the European Defence Fund, its flagship programme dedicated to fostering innovation and disruptive technology in defence.

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What is the purpose of the European Defence Fund?

For the first time, with the EDF, the EU offers grants for collaborative research projects in the defence sector. It serves as the EU's primary initiative to advance the defence industry in Europe. It aims to contribute to the strategic autonomy, competitiveness, and resilience of both the European Union and its member states. The EDF complements and amplifies national investments in defence.

With a budget of €7.9 billion allocated from 2021 to 2027, the EDF consists of two key elements: the collaborative research pillar (€2.7 billion budget) and the development pillar (€5.3 billion budget) for capability development projects. The research segment focuses on funding collaborative research in cutting-edge defence technologies, while the development segment supports the joint advancement of defence products and technologies.

Embedded within the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), the EDF aims to increase investment in defence research and coordinate the efforts of EU member countries. By doing so, the EU seeks to enhance its defence capabilities, reduce reliance on external partners, and achieve greater strategic autonomy and become less dependent on the United States in terms of defence.

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EDF Eligibility Criteria

  • Only collaborative projects are eligible: involving 3 eligible entities from at least 3 Member States or associated countries.

  • Calls focused on disruptive technologies can consider smaller consortia with a minimum of 2 eligible entities.

  • Norway is the only associated country participating in the EDF.

  • Be established and have executive management structure in the EU and not be subject to control by a non-associated country/entity-unless certain security-based conditions are met.

  • While participation of entities from non-associated third countries is possible, it must align with specific conditions to assure EU security and defence interests. It is important to note that such entities established outside of the EU and Norway can participate in projects but are not eligible to be funded by the EDF.

What are Eligible European Defence Fund projects?

The European Defence Fund (EDF) is not just an avenue for funding; it is a catalyst for progress in the European defence industry. By offering financial support and resources, the EDF empowers projects that aim to develop cutting-edge equipment, technologies, and research.

The EDF work programmes are structured along 17 thematic and horizontal categories of actions which will remain stable, including medical response, information superiority, cyber, space, digital transformation, energy resilience, materials and components, air combat, ground combat, naval combat, simulation and training, and disruptive technologies.

  • Focus on SME participation

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The EDF places significant emphasis on the crucial role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing higher financing rates and favoring projects by consortia which include SMEs. SMEs participating in projects selected under these calls receive valuable business coaching support, facilitating their growth and success.

  • Capability development projects

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One of the primary focuses of the EDF is to drive advancements in defence capabilities across various domains, to increase the EU’s technological autonomy and competitiveness.

  • Collaborative research & Disruptive technology

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In addition to funding development projects, the EDF allocates resources for research activities. It particularly emphasizes two critical areas: Electromagnetic Full-spectrum Dominance and Future Disruptive Defence Technologies. Research in these domains plays a crucial role in maintaining Europe's long-term lead and independence in defence capabilities. The EDF specifically targets disruptive innovations, allocating up to 8% of its available funding to support groundbreaking technologies and innovative instruments.

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What is the EU EDF budget? How is the EDF financed?

For the period spanning 2021 to 2027, the European Defence Fund has been allocated a substantial budget of close to €8 billion, and will become one of the top 3 defence research spenders in Europe. This funding will be disbursed for two key purposes: €2.7 billion dedicated to collaborative defence research and €5.3 billion earmarked for funding collaborative capability development projects.

The European Defence Fund unlocks €1.2 billion euros for the 2023 calls in defence capabilities and innovation.

The EDF provides financial assistance primarily in the form of grants, covering 100% of the eligible costs for research actions and co-finance from 20% to 100% for development actions, depending on the specific activities involved.

Additionally, Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects may be eligible for a higher rate of EU co-financing.

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What TRL requirements for EDF projects?

EDF projects will support projects throughout the entire cycle of research and development to generate a broader impact. The project TRL does not matter, since the EDF includes funding for R&T (which has TRL 0-3) and R&D projects that go from prototyping to full application (TRL 4-9).

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What is the European Defence Fund Work Programme 2023?

The 2023 EDF Work Programme includes 7 calls (4 thematic calls and 3 calls dedicated to SMEs and disruptive technologies). Read more about the calls and topics here.

The 2023 EDF Work Programme increased the funding specifically allocated to SMES and research organizations by 50% compared to the previous year. The 2023 European Defence Fund results will be published via the official European Commission website, you may look at the 2021 EDF Work programme results here.

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Why apply to the EDF?

Accessing the EDF's financial resources presents an exceptional opportunity for companies to accelerate their innovative ideas and reinforce their position as frontrunners in the defence industry. By aligning with the EDF, organizations can access funding and resources that drive the realization of defence-oriented initiatives.

See this EDF video if you are interested in applying.

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Applications for EDF funding opened on June 15, 2023, with a submission deadline of November 22, 2023. Calls for proposals are launched annually, and applications are submitted through the EU Funding & Tenders Portal page.

To learn more about EDF contact us and register for the EDF information days on the 28 and 29 June 2023, here.

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How we can HELP YOU apply

At Futuro Perfecto, we specialize in unlocking EU funding opportunities and guiding companies through complex application processes. As EU funding experts with an in-depth understanding of the European funding landscape, we have a proven track record of supporting organizations in securing EU grants. Our team of experts can collaborate with you to develop project ideas, identify key European partners, and navigate the application process.

We believe that disruptive technology in the Defence sector has a lot of potential to get funded by the European Union, and so we are actively seeking to take part in summits and events to find promising startups in the sector. Below, you will see a picture of our team present at FEIDEF 2023, a summit on the defence sector organized in Madrid, Spain.

Futuro Perfecto Team photo at a Defence Summit called FEINDEF
Futuro Perfecto at FEINDEF

If you are interested in exploring the potential of the European Defence Fund and discussing how it aligns with your company's goals, we would be delighted to arrange a consultation at your convenience. Please feel free to contact us at We look forward to the opportunity to work together and assist you in realizing the full potential of your defence technology.


Key Takeaways

The European Defence Fund offers a broad spectrum of funding opportunities to drive innovation and advancement in defence projects. Whether it is the development of equipment and technologies, support for SMEs, investment in disruptive research, or strategic projects, the EDF plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of European defence. By leveraging the EDF's resources, stakeholders in the defence industry can accelerate progress, foster collaboration, and strengthen Europe's security and technological autonomy. Contact our team to learn about funding opportunities perfect for you!

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