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March 8, 2017 - In a world facing a growing risk of man-made and natural disasters resulting from increasingly frequent and severe natural, industrial and man-made hazards, the security of citizens, infrastructure and assets, and the protection of the environment have become a high priority in the European Union. In order to increase the effectiveness of its security research programmes, DG HOME set up a 'Community of Users on Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies'.
The Community of Users (CoU) intiative was launched in 2014. It has five core objectives: (1) Ensure that EU security research programming takes into account practitioners' needs, promoting research results that are relevant to them; (2) Identify the most promising tools, methods, and guidelines that have the potential to be taken up by practitioners; (3) Support the competitiveness of EU industry by enhancing the market for research results; (4) Ensure that practitioner expertise is available to policy makers, thereby aiding the policy-making process; and (5) Facilitate the implementation of policy.
In December 2014, Ecorys NL won its first bid to undertake support services for the CoU initiative, starting with a project mapping exercise to highlight the scientific and technological challenges of key EU security policies and match them to relevant FP7 - and later Horizon 2020 - research projects. In addition, Ecorys UK was invited to work on a dedicated CoU website that translates the mapping into a virtual network linking projects to people. These activities marked the beginning of a highly successful, multi-year collaboration between Ecorys and DG HOME. During this time, Ecorys has placed itself in a unique position at the centre of the European security research community as it leads advisory services to bring together policy makers, academics, researchers, practitioners, industry, and civil society around the most pressing security challenges of our time.
Efforts seem to be paying off. The thematic scope of the Community of Users initiative was expanded in early 2016 from disaster risk and crisis management to include border security, counter-terrorism and the rule of law. Today, with more than 1200 members (and many more affiliates), the CoU initiative enjoys the formal endorsement of EU Commissioner Julian King (Security Union). It has an official website, multiple publications, and is a key strategic priority of the JRC Disaster Risk Knowledge Management Centre’s work programme.
In January 2017, Ecorys secured financing for its fourth Community of Users project. The timing could not be better, as the CoU continues to expand its footprint in Europe and national governments are increasingly calling for an effective defence and security ecosystem characterised by informal, scalable networks that inspire and empower its members to come up with concrete and actionable solutions (Source: Future Force Conference 2017). As lead consultant to the CoU initiative, Ecorys is well placed to take on a leadership role in the development of such a security and defence ecosystem moving forward.