Council of the
Brussels, 19 February 2020
EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator
Embracing new and disruptive technologies in internal security and justice
with an EU Innovation Hub
In October 2019, the JHA Council endorsed1 a proposal by the EU CTC to establish a European
multi-stakeholder entity for innovation in internal security and justice
The JHA Council of 8 October 2019 (Doc. 12837/19): "Ministers expressed their overall
support for the creation of an innovation lab at Europol which could act as an observatory
of new technological developments and drive innovation, including by developing common
technological solutions for member states in the field of internal security.
Disruptive technologies and internal security and justice of 8 May 2019 (Doc. 9069/19). The
proposal is a joint product of a seminar gathering 40 senior EU executives from European
institutions, agencies and MS.
This joint structure would be an EU Innovation Hub
, a common platform to support
and deliver products and services, by capitalizing on respective expertise of European security
actors (i.e. the research and innovation entities from European Union (EU) agencies such as the
Frontex R&I Unit or the planned Europol Innovation Lab4), to initiate common pilot projects; boost
opportunities and mitigate the substantial risks and threats associated with new technologies;
maximize the utility of data; de-conflict legal challenges tied to operational needs; and anticipate
the necessary transformations of mind-set and organisations.
By jointly achieving the above, the Hub would help to collectively and concretely address the
rising and fast-evolving challenges faced by all Members States (MS) and European agencies
owing to emerging technologies. Beyond, this Hub would contribute to and advance the EU's
position as a global leader in disruptive technologies in the field of internal security and constitute
an urgently needed step towards increasing European technological sovereignty
5. In doing so, the
Hub will help reduce the EU's technological lag vis-à-vis its global strategic rivals moving at far
higher speeds (mainly China and the United States).
This note is meant as a contribution to the ongoing work led by Europol focusing on the tasks of the
Hub. The agreed upon tasks should drive the discussions on governance and means for its
implementation. It will be necessary to urgently provide adequate funding for the Hub distinct from
the equally necessary funding of a Europol Innovation Lab. It's crucial to keep a high level of
ambition in order to pave the way to an advanced EU capacity catalysing innovation and delivering
cutting-edge products for the security of European citizens.
While initially called the "joint innovation lab for European agencies (the "lab"), it has since
been renamed the "EU Innovation Hub" to avoid confusion with innovation labs of EU
agencies and to better describe its role.
The Deep Dive of 17 July 2019 led by Commissioner King on emerging technology,
security and law enforcement supported a joint venture between Europol and JRC "to start
the work immediately
". Such a tool focused on law enforcement would be a sound building
block for the EU Innovation Hub's activities.
See "A new strategic agenda 2019-2024" agreed by the European Council in June 2019;
"The Political Guidelines for the Next Commission 2019-2024" of July 2019.
I. A multi-stakeholder Innovation Hub
The EU Innovation Hub ("The Hub") would bring together relevant EU and Member States security
and justice stakeholders
, gathering agencies of Member States, EU JHA agencies (Europol,
Frontex, Eu-LISA, Cepol and Eurojust), other EU institutional actors and agencies playing a role in
security (Joint Research Centre [JRC], Enisa and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and
Drug Addiction [EMCDDA]), military and space (European Defence Agency [EDA], EU Satellite
Centre [SATCEN], European Space Agency [ESA] and European Global Navigation Satellite
System Agency [GSA]), the EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), the European Data
Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), the European
Investment Bank (EIB), practitioner networks such as the Expert Group on the Use of AI for
Security set up by DG HOME, ENLETS6
, SEREN47, I-LEAD or ILEAnet8, the relevant European
security, military and space industries, and European academia and private sector more broadly
(from start-ups, through small enterprises to large corporations, including venture capital firms),
across the entire value chain (research and development, investment, production), with a view to
enhancing the EU's technological prowess and developing products intended for industrialization
from the get-go.
The Hub will build on but not replace the existing structures
thereby bringing together diverse
and most advanced expertise within the EU to develop cutting-edge initiatives. Hence, it will
connect Members States' and EU innovation capacities active in internal security and justice.
The European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS) started in
2008, to operationally strengthen police forces and to promote the use and development of
technology by exchanging information, experience and knowledge on a practical
SEREN4 is the security research network of national contact points for Secure Societies
Challenge in Horizon 2020 (H2020 SC7); funded by H2020, it offers direct assistance and
opportunities to practitioners for learning, training and networking, creating synergies with
key security players in the field of security research.
ILEAnet is the European LEA Research and Innovation Network, started in 2017 and
gathering 19 partners from 16 European countries, to support LEAs in the domain of
According to the JHA Council of 8 October 2019, the Hub will be headquartered at Europol. This
will allow it to take advantage of technological expertise developed by Europol9
, and the potential
offered by joint work on technologies with Eurojust as well as the connection to a wider
. This location would also ease the direct connection to policy-making level in Brussels.
The Hub could be created by an administrative agreement between EU agencies11
. It is crucial to
give the Hub sufficient resources
for adequate staffing and for funding its own pilot projects, in
addition to the possibility of grants from EU-funded research programmes. It would rely partly on
experts seconded by the stakeholders.
The structure and governance model should be kept inclusive, agile and dynamic
. The main
governance body should be composed of EU agencies. Other stakeholders would be invited to join
the activities of the Hub, on a voluntary basis, according to a task force model, to address common
challenges or implement projects where underlying technologies are similar. The Hub might operate
in a decentralized manner by placing one specific stakeholder in charge of an activity who will
aggregate relevant work streams (e.g. give JRC the lead on a specific law enforcement project such
as vehicle forensics, together with European industrial partner(s) and Member States' entities). For
all its tasks, the Hub must leverage creative research and innovation methods, embrace risk taking,
give researchers the freedom to fail, and launch projects measured in weeks or months rather than
years or decades. The choice of individuals who embody these values is paramount. It will help
break silos in the security and justice community across the EU.
Building on its expertise in the field of technologies (encryption, cryptocurrencies, fight
against terrorist content online, etc.), the Europol Strategy 2020+, adopted in December
2018, identified innovation and research excellency as the 4th strategic priority. Europol
produced a report on "Exploring Tomorrow's Organised Crime" in 2015 and a second one
on "How technology shapes the future of crime and law enforcement" in 2019.
United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has
headquartered its Centre for AI and Robotics in the Hague, which has partnered with
INTERPOL’s Innovation Centre. NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI) is
partially based in The Hague.
The inter-institutional agreement creating the CERT-EU, an ad hoc
structure working in
network with Member States' CERT entities, could serve as an example of a top-end tool.
II. Driving Research and Innovation in technologies for internal security
The EU Innovation Hub (the “Hub") would have five primary tasks: i) initiating joint pilot
projects in accordance with a ‘DARPA’-type methodology; ii) evaluating the risks and
opportunities presented by new technologies; iii) optimizing data use for operational needs;
iv) de-conflicting laws with operational requirements;
and v) reflecting on necessary personnel
and methodology transformations
1. Initiating Joint Pilot Projects
The Hub would initiate joint pilot projects
to develop practical products based on emerging
technologies to respond to operational users’ needs while fostering the European security-industrial
basis. Projects would ease technical interoperability across EU and MS security and justice actors.
Projects should aim for industrialisation from the outset, through the close involvement of, and
cooperation with the European private sector, thus facilitating market uptake.
Vital to the success of the Hub and its pilot projects, is the employment of a ‘DARPA’
, which affords the flexibility necessary for (potentially, iterative) scientific
experimentation. Specifically, it will be necessary to be able to quickly release sufficient capital
with the freedom to fail and encourage tests and prototyping, all with a light, flexible and
autonomous decision-making process, flat hierarchy, as well as a rapid turnover of personnel
throughout the structure, short-cycle and light assessment reports, and rapid judgment on whether to
accelerate or give up. The choice of the managers will be key in achieving this.
According to the DARPA methodology, the Hub would need its own discretionary budget devoted
to funding its pilot projects, in a rapid and flexible manner. In parallel, the Hub would explore the
best use of the different research and innovation (R&I)13
funding sources available under the current
and next Multi-Annual Financial Frameworks (MFF), if appropriate14
The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's methodology has resulted in major
industrial and technological achievements in both the civilian and military spheres. The
proposal put forward by the President of the French Republic in September 2017 for a
European research and development agency for disruptive technologies, along the lines of
DARPA, merits consideration and implementation.
See COM(2018) 306 final of 15.5.2018 "A renewed European Agenda for Research and
Innovation - Europe's chance to shape its future".
Digital Europe, COSME, Internal Security Fund; Horizon Europe, InvestEU or the
European Defence Fund.
In addition, the Hub could advise stakeholders on the availability, eligibility and access method to
the wide range of existing EU funding sources under the current and next MFF15
. The Hub could act
as a catalyser for stakeholders by suggesting the creation of consortia or informing them of existing
consortia applying for EU-funded projects. Beyond, the Hub could initiate a reflection with its
stakeholders (mainly the EBI and the financial private sector), on the design of new funding
instruments, and experiment with their implementation.
The Hub could develop projects from short term to longer term
, based on existing projects in the
EU and identification of future opportunities (e.g. admissibility of e-evidence, predictive police,
automated translation and natural language processing, voice analysis and object recognition, etc.).
In the short term, the Hub would support the mutualizing of current projects16
, and launch
technological projects covering unaddressed tactical needs (e.g. the use of blockchain for exchange
of information by Eurojust Joint Investigation Teams). The Hub could also spearhead work on the
next waves of disruptive technologies (post deep-learning techniques in AI, 6G, etc.). Pilot projects
will also embed ethical considerations at their inception to ensure their sustainability.
The Hub would disseminate the concrete results
of both its pilot projects and results of interesting
security research and innovation projects across its stakeholders. The Hub could create a dashboard
allowing easy access to on-going and completed R&I projects at both EU and MS level.
Furthermore, the Hub could make available best practices with regards to procurement rules for
, or could be invited to develop new practices18
The Hub could create an online tool for EU funding and EBI lending, akin to IdentiFunding
developed by the EDA and learn from Member States' experience, such as the Spanish
Security Technological Centre (CETSE) at the Ministry of Interior in charge of inter alia
maximizing synergies between EU funding instruments.
Frontex organises demonstrations of technology, conducts technical feasibility studies and
runs pilot projects for borders, to test potential solutions and assess their capabilities as well
as identify future needs.
the EU Directive relating to defence and security procurement; Pre-commercial
Procurement for innovation (PCP) or Public Procurement of Innovative Solutions
Based on the Commission's work in this field such as the 'Innovation Public Procurement
Guidelines' or its recommendation to explore joint innovation procurement for AI in its
communications on AI published in 2018.
2. Assessing Risks, Threats and Opportunities and Horizon-scanning
The Hub would lead two parallel assessment activities.
2.1. First, it will assess risks, threats and opportunities
posed by emerging technologies or novel
applications of existing technologies. On this basis, it would suggest mitigation measures or ways to
exploit opportunities created by the on-going and ever-accelerating technological transformation,
including by recommending in-house pilot projects funded by the Hub's discretionary budget19
most effectively achieve this task, the Hub could partner with European structures20
Its products are intended to alert and inform policy makers
(e.g. the need to engage with the
international working groups shaping standards to ensure that requirements preserving the capacity
of targeted lawful interception are included), feed initiatives (e.g. create capacities to mitigate the
use of new technologies by terrorist groups), provide ideas for pilot projects and serve to raise
awareness of the risks among the different communities of innovators (e.g. open spaces for biotech
They could also contribute to the identification of industrial-technological priorities
for the EU
(e.g. support EU companies developing quantum-resistant cryptography software) and policy
initiatives to be taken at EU level (e.g. engaging with tech companies which decided to generalise
the encryption of internet protocols by themselves, thus compromising the ability to lawful intercept
For example. how to mitigate the risk of facing a terrorist attack via miniaturized drones to
disperse a home-made bio-bomb over a public space.
For example INTCEN (SIAC) as well as agencies (e.g. Enisa produces regular reports on
cybersecurity and new technologies like cybersecurity and distributed ledger in 2016, etc.).
The Lab would partner with European institutions equivalent to organisations such as The
International Risk Governance Centre at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
or the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) which has developed a Global Research
Network on Terrorism and Technology.
2.2. In parallel, taking inspiration from and in partnership with the space and defence sectors22
Hub would engage in horizon-scanning of the technical, regulatory, institutional, and human
capital transformations due to new technologies
, to issue strategic-level recommendations for the
EU, based on credible scenarios23
. This foresight activity would encompass the following elements:
i) identify the impact of geopolitical and socioeconomic trends on technologies (e.g. the
fragmentation of Internet; how ethical considerations could drive their development); and ii)
understand how new technologies and their convergence could impact societies and business in the
context of security and justice (e.g. the development of open online labs for genome manipulation).
Their aim is to anticipate the impact of both trends on the way we deliver security and justice in the
EU (e.g. how to respond to the privatisation of security by tech companies)24
This activity could build on existing efforts25
in this field and could be closely developed with the
European Commission Vice-President in charge of Foresight and Institutional Affairs, in order to
contribute to the EU decision-making.
3. Optimizing data for operational needs
Given the prevalence of data in so many technology-related fields, the Hub would create a data
lake, promote data integrity
(circumvent bias and counter deep fakes), and undertake data
(data-lean AI, next Big Data for criminal analysis, etc.) to transform data into reliable
The Hub could inspire itself from the EUISS or the French Ministry of Defence Red Team.
In the US, the Army has set up a Mad Scientist Laboratory, and the CIA developed a Red
Cell after the 9/11 attacks, which seeks to continuously challenge key assumptions, conduct
alternative analysis and prepare for US for so-called ‘black swan’ events (unforeseen, very
high impact events like the sudden rise of IS Caliphate).
The EUISS published "Scanning the horizon: 12 scenarios for 2021" in January 2019.
Another example of crossing of expertise and data among defence, security and space
sectors is the report "Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army",
published by the
US Army War College in October 2019 which analyses the impact of climate change on US
national security by 2050.
Analytical foresight methods, such as ‘what-if’s’, horizon scanning, and scenario-building
with design fiction methodology should ensure that the Hub, and therefore the EU, is
consistently ahead of the curve.
Frontex is currently developing a partnership with the EDA on foresight. Within the Council
of the EU, meetings of the Horizon Scanning Network are organized.
In particular, the Hub would analyse how a shared data lake
could be created together with the
support of entities in charge of privacy and data protection (EDPS and European Data Protection
Board, FRA, DG JUST, etc.) within the existing legal framework. This data lake would seek to
truly pool disparate data in a single entity for analytics as well as training artificial intelligence tools
(e.g. to test the potential for detecting radicalisation tipping-points). Such infrastructure, coupled
with an ability to deal with data of various origins, would bring real added value to the development
of software tools. It would need preliminary work26
as well as sufficient budget.
4. De-conflicting legal challenges in operational cases
Since security, privacy, data protection, safety and transparency of algorithms may be conflicting
norms, the Hub could offer a de-confliction mechanism for dealing with operational cases
Concretely, the Hub could offer practitioners and scientists the opportunity to work together with
actors such as DG JUST, the EDPS or FRA in order to develop legal solutions to operational
requirements which might conflict with existing legislation27
. The Hub would nurture creative
solutions within the existing legal framework as well as reflect on possible changes.
Thus, the Hub could develop both principles and technological tools with the data protection
authorities, researchers and internet companies, with the aim of exploring technological solutions
supporting privacy by design such as pseudonymisation technologies for data transfers,
anonymization technologies for data retention, the use of open source or synthetic data, and the
potential of differential privacy. The Hub could support the production of specific guidelines for the
internal security sector or explore how "regulatory sandboxes"28
could work in practice to facilitate
testing and experimentation of new businesses models not yet regulated.
The Hub could exploit the work initiated by DG HOME on the topic.
E.g. access by LEAs to WHOIS, handling of FIU.net by Europol, reliability of evidence put
in question by new technologies, role of chain of custody and cross-examination, etc.
See COM(2018) 237 final of 25.4.2018 AI Intelligence for Europe, "These are testing
grounds for new business models that are not (yet) regulated
5. Fostering Human Capital
Rapid advances in emerging technologies are changing the very nature of jobs - and the skills
needed to do them - faster than ever before. The Hub would therefore suggest the necessary
medium- to long-term transformations within security and justice areas, in order to more effectively
, attract, recruit
, manage and train, as well as retain talent
. The Hub could act as a testing
ground for these innovative practices.
In the short term, the Hub would help identify the profiles needed to fill impending knowledge
and functionality gaps
(e.g. hiring an expert in blockchain, data analysis, algorithm creation and
control, data infrastructure management or data labelling) It would also reflect on the medium to
long term impact of new technologies on security and justice professions, and advise on the need to
diversify recruitment accordingly.
Together with Cepol, the Hub will help develop new and innovative training
on open source intelligence, facial recognition, etc.) as well as practical training on technological
tools (e.g. neutralizing a drone), to be delivered by Cepol for law enforcement, and the European
Judicial Training Network for justice area or Frontex for border security. Insights on innovation
should include the broad range of actors security and justice, such as staff in charge of public
procurement. Student programmes such as those existing in the US should be developed29
This could also involve developing new methods of cooperation between academic talent or the
private sector and the security professions, which are themselves expected to evolve. Thus, the Lab
could collect, develop and disseminate innovate practices on how to effectively incentivise
European researchers to work for security and justice
(e.g. allow them to benefit from patents,
offer career progression and benefits on-par with the private sector, the Hub could help connect
researchers with venture capital, etc.). Attracting the necessary talent will involve offering
opportunities which combine issues of public interest with access to exclusive data or technologies.
Many federal Agencies in the security and space sectors offer opportunities for students
(internship, fellowship, scholarship, etc.). The NSA offers various paid programs for high
school, college and graduate students in its focus areas (e.g. computer science, language
skills in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Farsi or Arabic).
III. Action Recommendations
In the immediate term
, it is vital that decisions be taken urgently on:
1. Appointment of the Head of the Hub or a "préfigurateur", to ensure clear leadership
2. Agreement on the tasks, to drive the discussions on governance and resources
3. Allocation of appropriate resources, to start as soon as possible
4. Setting up of the administrative governance structure with key stakeholders.
In the medium-term
, it is key to the operational stability, morale and success of the Hub, that
additional resources within the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework are earmarked for it,
alongside other financing from sources such as the Internal Security Fund, alternative research-
related funding or Digital Europe. Throughout both stages, our ambition should remain high as we
pursue the development of a new mind-set and new capacities vis-à-vis emerging and disruptive
technologies in internal security.