On 26 February, the European Commission announced the official launch of four pilot projects aimed at strengthening cybersecurity research and coordination across the EU: Concordia, Echo, Sparta and CyberSec4Europe. These four projects, part of the large European Horizon 2020 programme, aim at contributing to the development of a common European roadmap on research and innovation in this field and at implementing a European collaboration on cybersecurity for industry.

The speed with which these projects were launched illustrates how crucial this theme is today: in September 2017, the European Council clearly expressed its ambition in this respect with the creation of a single European Competence Centre as its main goal. The call for projects, under the aegis Horizon 2020, took place between February and May 2018. The set of specifications was complex, to say the least. The participation of a minimum of 20 partners representing at least nine Member States or Associated States was requested for each project.

An unprecedented European initiative

“For such European projects, this speed is almost unprecedented,” says Geraud Guilloud, Advisor – European R&D and Innovation Support at Luxinnovation. “You have to know that until now, European cybersecurity players have had very few contacts and exchanges with each other. This lack of common and coordinated protection makes us particularly vulnerable. Not so long ago, if one country was attacked, the others were not even informed. This situation has changed. However, it is not yet the case for economic players who, like countries a few years ago, are still reluctant to admit that they have been attacked.”

Not so long ago, if one country was attacked, the others were not even informed. This situation has changed.

According to figures presented by the European Commission in September 2018, the European Union is home to more than 660 centres of expertise in cybersecurity in the 28 Member States, but the continent accounts for only 26% of the global market for cybersecurity and hosts only about 70 of the world’s top 500 players in the sector, or 14%. This rate is 75% for the United States or 7% for the state of Israel alone.

Hence the desire expressed by the European Commissioner for the Economy and the Digital Society, Mariya Gabriel, to remedy this as quickly as possible and to test a full-scale model of sustainable and effective European governance. “It’s about putting tools in place for all economic players, be they industries, companies, associations or public authorities. Through the future single Competence Centre that will take shape by 2021, any of these European players will be able to provide themselves with cybersecurity tools and solutions.”

Luxembourg excellence

The deployment of these four networks is therefore the first concrete step and at this stage, Luxembourg has taken a strong stance: out of the total budget of €63.5 million, 1.9 million has been awarded to Luxembourg organisations. “Compared to the size of the country and the market, this is huge,” underlines Géraud Guilloud. “This proves Luxembourg’s excellence in cybersecurity and its importance from an economic point of view.”

The biggest Luxembourg contribution (€1.3 million) is provided to the Sparta project, whose focus is exclusively “civilian”. Coordinated by the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, the consortium brings together a group of 44 organisations from 14 EU Member States. In Luxembourg, it particularly targets financial services, autonomous driving and space industry players.

This proves Luxembourg’s excellence in cybersecurity and its importance from an economic point of view.

Luxembourg is represented by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the public organisation Security made in Lëtzebuerg (Smile). Their participation was made possible by the coordination and networking work carried out by Luxinnovation, which really played the role of matchmaker in this case.

SnT is also involved in two of the three other pilot projects: Concordia and CyberSec4Europe, which makes it the only European organisation involved in three of the four pilot projects.

Smile has been mandated for negotiations with the European Commission to set up the European Cybersecurity Centre. The outcome of these negotiations should be known by autumn 2019. The relative weight of Luxembourg in these four pilot projects definitely gives the country a certain legitimacy in cybersecurity at the European level and candidly illustrates the will of the government to make the country an international “safe haven”.