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Technologies to enhance border and external security


Proposals are invited to address related research and innovation issues, in particular:

  • Sub-topic 1: [2018] Providing integrated situational awareness and applying augmented reality to border security

Currently, information is made available to border and coast guards in several formats and on different kinds of hardly interoperable displays. However, human cognitive is limited at managing information from several sources simultaneously and at handling too many separate pieces of equipment is a limit to their ability to act. Furthermore, border and coast guards often work in sparsely populated and remote areas where the availability of telecommunication networks may be an issue. Research and innovation should lead towards (cloud-based) integrated systems with simple but complete and highly-standardized interfaces showing real-time information in a user-friendly way that can assist border guards in decision-making, and in remaining in contact with their command and control centre in the actual context of operations. Water, land and air operating resources should be taken into account, to lead to enhanced concept of employment, integration and interoperability standards.

  • Sub-topic 2: [2018] Detecting fraud, verifying document validity, and alternative technologies to identifying people

The use of counterfeit travel documents at borders is a reality, which entails the risk of not identifying known criminals, including terrorists. It is a cross-cutting priority according to the EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2017[[]] since it enables or enhances all types of serious and organized crime and terrorism. New countermeasures are needed to address potential frauds, in particular for the detection of morphed face images. The use of biometrics ""on the fly"" techniques for identification in a non-intrusive manner and without interrupting the flow of people is an area for further development, testing and validation.

  • Sub-topic 3: [2019] Security on-board passenger ships

Security on-board passenger ships is challenging, given the larger number of specific constraints that apply. To ensure security all along the ""life cycle"" of a voyage, new technologies can be implemented (together with methods for their deployment and possibly their integration into ship systems), as well as security novel procedures (including for embarkation and disembarkation, mooring at pier, etc.)

  • Sub-topic 4: [2019] Detecting threats in the stream of commerce without disrupting business

The flow of goods crossing borders is increasing, whilst ways of concealing methods for dangerous materials and illegally trafficked goods are improving. The detection of such dangerous and illegal goods should be facilitated by novel technologies and sensing strategies characterized by risk-based protection and non-intrusive security checks that can be implemented without disrupting business.

Proposals should target the automation and integration of existing technologies for the purpose of identifying the largest possible amount of threat materials and ensuring the full supervision of the logistic flow of goods. This would require exploiting information obtained through the analysis of cargo flow data available from open source and documentary control, intelligence gathering, risk management, as well as through physical detection or inspection of cargo in means of transport, luggage, or carried by individuals. The fitness for purpose of novel solutions should be validated at the EU external border, in a context chosen on the basis of a sound and factual risk analysis.

Of particular relevance: the enhancement of detection capabilities of contraband (mainly cigarettes) hidden in high density cargo (coal, iron ore) in particular for rail cargo transport, and well as the fight against illicit trafficking of radioactive and nuclear (NR) materials (including through the establishment of trans-European network of detection facilities with its specific concept of operations.

  • Sub-topic 5: [2020] Disruptive technologies for non-intrusive identification of hidden goods

Detecting and identifying illegal goods hidden in containers, train cars and truck structures at EU external borders (e.g. ports, wharfs, rail yards, …) is a need shared by border guard, customs and law enforcement authorities. Illegal goods, including drugs, weapons, explosives, radiological and nuclear material, are trafficked into Europe by criminal organisations using a range of methods and tools, which are very diverse (e.g. to minimize the risk of detection during transportation, some drugs may be transformed into a liquid and turned back into a solid at destination) and adaptable to specific border conditions. These may also include taking advantage of new technology to facilitate access to containers.

Research should focus on the use of improved sensing technologies. The availability of a system of sensors producing a highly detailed, user friendly, 3-dimensional insight into the internal structure of a container (or truck), and the type of cargo carried, in a limited amount of time, would in particular be a valuable disruptive innovation for the customs and border inspection community. The system of sensors should be suitable for deployment and operation in a flexible and relocatable way, including mechanisms to improve field usability. The system should also allow for a swift gathering and exchange of information with other systems in order to facilitate a faster and more accurate localisation and identification of illicit cargo, without the need to open containers (this being a clear improvement when compared to current capabilities).

In line with the above, the newly developed solutions should allow for interoperability with state of the art and with foreseeable future border and customs information systems in order to optimise the overall container screening process using a risk-based approach.

Proposals should conduct testing and validation in the relevant environment.

  • Sub-topic: [2018-2019-2020] Open

Proposals addressing other issues relevant to this challenge, based on a sound rationale and supported by a large number of relevant practitioners are invited to apply under this sub-topic (see eligibility and admissibility conditions.)

Proposals should lead to solutions developed, tested, and validated in compliance with European societal values, fundamental rights and applicable legislation, including in the area of free movement of persons, privacy and protection of personal data. Societal aspects (e.g. perception of security, possible side effects of technological solutions, societal resilience) have to be addressed in a comprehensive and thorough manner.

The centre of gravity for technology development with actions funded under this topic is expected to be up to TRL 5 to 6 – see General Annex G of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of about EUR 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Innovation for border and external security may draw, in particular, from novel technologies, provided that they are affordable, accepted by citizens and customized and implemented for the needs of security practitioners.

Short term:

  • Clear, realistic benchmarks against which to assess progress, so as to possibly stop the project if at mid-term review progress is not deemed sufficient.
  • Plan to provide confidence in the take up of project results after the completion of the project.

Medium term:

  • Evidence based knowledge, and developments performing beyond the current state of the art and leading quickly to innovation.
  • Technical and operational guidelines, recommendations and best practices set in the EUROSUR handbook and in the future handbook for coast guards (as per Article 53 of the European Border and Coast Guard regulation.)

Long term:

  • Implementation of solutions resulting from the legislative initiative in the ""Smart Borders"" package;
  • Implementation of actions of civilian nature identified in the EU Maritime Security Strategy action plan;
  • Implementation of the actions identified by the EU Strategy and Action Plan for customs risk management.