155. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps that have and will be been taken to ensure that companies here have the full support of all relevant State agencies in particular Enterprise Ireland and the IDA in accessing PESCO projects (details supplied) and funding; and if Irish companies will be assured that they will not be placed at a competitive disadvantage or precluded from these opportunities. (Question 13043/18 asked on 21 Mar 2018)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 156 together.

While PESCO does not provide for direct funding to Member States or to companies established in Member States, some capability development projects developed under PESCO may be eligible for funding from the European Defence Fund, in particular from the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).

The text of the proposed Regulation to establish the EDIDP was negotiated between Member States in the Friends of the Presidency format in the second half of 2017. My Department worked closely with colleagues in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to ensure that the Programme reflected the interests of Ireland, particularly in the area of opportunities for SMEs.

The Regulation is expected to be adopted in May and my staff will continue to work with Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in particular, through this negotiation process to ensure Irish interests are reflected in the final programme.

In addition to the specific work carried out on the development of the above Programme, my Department and the Defence Forces have an on-going arrangement with Enterprise Ireland. This arrangement provides for Enterprise Ireland to support the Department of Defence/Defence Forces in the development of military capability. This is achieved by raising the awareness of, and engaging with, Irish-based enterprise and research institutes, including third level colleges that are engaged in relevant and related activities. Two committees, comprising of personnel from the Department of Defence, Enterprise Ireland and the Defence Forces oversee this arrangement. (The Defence Enterprise Committee and the Defence Enterprise Ireland Co-ordination Committee). The Committee meetings are regularly briefed on developments in the EU in relation to Horizon 2020, European Defence Agency, EDIDP, European Defence Fund and PESCO.

PESCO also features as a topic at meetings of the Interdepartmental Group on the European Union and Brexit which is attended by senior officials across Government Departments.

I have now confirmed Ireland’s participation in two PESCO projects (1) EU Training Mission Competence Centre and (2) Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance. As these projects are still at an early stage it is unclear what opportunities may be available within these projects for Irish industry/SMEs and whether they will be eligible for EDIDP funding. However my staff will ensure that the existing relationship with Enterprise Ireland is utilised to facilitate the onward communication of any opportunities that may arise.

Furthermore a joint Military and Civil project team has been created within the Defence Organisation to establish a Security and Defence Enterprise Group. This Group would support Irish-based enterprise in their engagement with EU institutes and funding programmes, to the benefit of Irish Enterprise and Defence Forces capability. Once established this Group will provide the Defence Organisation with a further means for communicating opportunities (including information related to accessing EU funding) to interested parties.