More than 450 industry officials, researchers and practitioners from 35 countries attended the Security Research Event 2017 (SRE2017) in Tallinn on 14-15 November. Co-organised by the European Commission and Estonia’s Academy of Security Sciences and its Ministry of Interior, the conference’s six expert panels addressed a wide range of challenges facing security research in the future, from prevention of terrorist attacks to improving multi-country disaster response.
Post-H2020: what next?
Among the topics at SRE2017 was the future of the EU’s security research after Horizon 2020. Roundtable discussions focused on the Commission’s preparations for the EU’s next seven-year framework programme for research and innovation. The discussions highlighted the relevance of a dedicated European funding scheme for security research and demonstrated how the activities launched under such umbrella are positively impacting on the European security ecosystem. Discussants also indicated an additional effort is required to enable appropriate bridging from research output to effective products and services to be used by the end-users that are directly tackling the threats such as terrorism, cybercrime and natural disasters. In this respect the involvement of industry, academia, public authorities and practitioners in a co-creation process is key to success. The need to also ensure support to project outreach once the results are achieved was also affirmed as a decisive factor. As participants learned, the Commission will hold public consultations in the coming months on how to shape the future framework programme.
A number of innovative security research projects showcased of their achievements at SRE2017’s exhibition area. These included:
CLOSEYE (“Collaborative evaLuation Of border Surveillance technologies in maritime Environment bY pre-operational validation of innovativE solutions”) http://www.closeye.eu/
Completed in February 2017, CLOSEYE’s goal was to explore technology for future purchase by public authorities (known as “pre-operational validation”) by testing maritime surveillance systems in actual operational environments. The CLOSEYE team defined, developed and integrated diverse technologies to enable the detection, identification and tracking of small suspicious vessels by national coast guard and other authorities along the EU’s southern maritime border.
The project’s approach to technological solutions for operational use brought new technologies to the marketplace and helped prepare the ground for common surveillance tools between Member States.
Concluding its research in April 2017, EUROSKY focused on improved air-cargo security and international supply chains to facilitate smooth trade flows. It developed inspection technology for next-generation screening solutions to boost air cargo security by replacing traditional X-ray technology with one using multi-energy spectroscopic sensors that analyse vapours in a matter of seconds via a transportable mass spectrometer.
One of the mass spectrometers developed by EUROSKY is already commercially available and used by border agencies in North America. A further improved instrument will arrive on the market by end-2017. It will be the first such high-resolution portable instrument for accurate mass measurements, and promises to considerably increase the number of substances that can be detected. EUROSKY’s equipment should enable airlines and cargo handlers to better manage operational issues and reduce passenger queues, thus maintaining their competitiveness.
Completed in May 2017, the main objective of ACXIS was to develop a manufacturer-independent reference database derived from X-ray images of illegal and legitimate cargo, plus information about procedures and algorithms for X-ray imagery produced by different cargo scanners using diverse measurement parameters. More than 30,000 X-ray images – consisting of real detections, X-ray mock-up scans and simulated projections of contraband for various types of cargo – were stored. One of the project’s main challenges was to transform this diverse data into a manufacturer-independent format via geometrical and X-ray spectral corrections.
Dutch and Swiss customs authorities actively cooperated with the consortium’s industrial and research centre partners to develop a software tool to automatically detect illegal goods stored in cargo such as weapons, cigarettes and drugs. ACXIS also developed a training simulator to increase the skills of customs officers in detecting illegal cargo. Both software and training simulator are now ready to be commercialised.
A safe and secure Europe is one of Estonia’s four priorities for its presidency of the EU. Thus it was an honour and a unique opportunity to host the SRIEE 2017 conference in Tallinn in mid-November, especially as was the first time that the SRE event took place in the Nordic-Baltic region. It is a remarkable milestone for Estonia’s security policies.
The EU’s security environment faces several cross-border and cross-national threats. The timing of this conference for security experts to discuss how security research and innovation can create technological advantages for the law enforcement community to meeting these challenges could not have been better. There is no silver bullet, but open discussions will support strategic goals in national security planning and are a force multiplier for increasing our security capability.
For example, Estonia’s eastern border, which also represents the external border of NATO and the EU, aims to become the world’s most modern one. We are developing a comprehensive border solution that involves 24/7 electronic surveillance.
SRIEE’s audience listened to many new ideas – things which are not always given the chance to reach fruition due to skepticism, unnecessary regulations or other obstacles. However, if we embrace sufficient flexibility, agility and speed, then success in security research and innovation is sure to follow.