The EU's naval ndustry is booming, but in order to remain on top, more investment is needed in research. These are the findings of a recently completed European Defence Agency commissioned Study on Industrial and Technological Competences in the Naval Sector, according to an article published in the EDA's Defence Matters magazine.
A list of technologies considered to be of primary importance to maintain Europe's competitiveness and technological lead and to ensure the required level of operational superiority, included surface technologies (virtual ships, simulation, maintenance, oceanography, environmental protection, supply & support), subsea technologies (hydrodynamics and UxV integration, modularity, UxV integration, vulnerability reduction, propulsor) as well as services and transversal technologies (uninhabited systems, propulsor & propellers).
3D printing, high capacity batteries, augmented reality and drones are new R&D topics that need to be focused on in future, the study concluded. The study, which was conducted by the consortium of Sea Europe (lead partner), Damen, DCNS, Fincantieri, Navantia and TKMS, concluded that the European naval industry had a breadth of capabilities encompassing design, integration, the ability to produce the whole range of naval ships and almost the totality of core systems and components. This is likely to stand the industry in good stead when competing for export customers with competitors from Russia, China and South Korea.
The diversification strategy of Europe's naval industrial base (cruise ships, yachts) has created a "cross-fertilisation between civil and military technologies (dual-use technologies), both at the prime contractors and and supply-chain levels, leading to cost-effective designs and solutions”, the study stated.
The best way to counter the growing threat from non-EU competitors in the maritime domain, the study said, was to leverage the EU's technological lead and to invest more in research and innovation at an EU and national level. The study called on the next European Commission multi-annual Framework for Research, Development and Innovation in 2021 to secure the importance of naval research.
European companies like France's DCNS and Spain's Navantia, have enjoyed recent successes in overseas markets like Australia. Navantia was shortlisted, alongside two other European companies, to design Australia's future frigate, which is due to commence construction in 2020. France's DCNS won the $50 billion three-year submarine design contract for the Royal Australian Navy's Collins-class submarine replacement programme.