The EU is facing an increasingly complex and volatile range of security threats both beyond its borders and at home.
On top of tensions in the Middle East and terror attacks on civilians in the EU, there is a strong increase in cyberattacks ranging from targeted malware incidents to the more subversive dissemination of fake news or the use of internet based communications for the preparation of terror attacks.
However, the cybersecurity landscape in the EU is still fragmented and spending is spread across several national bodies.
The need to further address EU Cyber resilience at a European level has recently driven a number of initiatives launched.
The European Commission and the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) launched a contractual Public Private Partnership as part of the EU cybersecurity strategy.
In order to increase access to financing, the European Council encouraged the EIB to examine further steps with a view to supporting investments in defence research and development activities.
As a response, the EIB put in place the European Security Initiative – Protect, Secure, Defend, with the aim of strengthening its support for RDI for dual-use technologies, cybersecurity and civilian security infrastructure.
The initiative aims to provide financing of EUR 6bn until 2021 in the domain of European security and defence.
Europe has so far not been at the forefront of adopting cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies.
The technology leaders in this domain are mainly companies based in the US, Israel and China.
We see thus as crucial the need to support on one hand the deployment of cyber security solutions in the public and the private sector and on the other hand, the development of new solutions and technologies- in the EU.
The EIB’s focus will be on increased support to investments in Research, Development and
Innovation for dual-use applications including in the field of cybersecurity.
The EIB aims to step up support in particular for projects that address issues of cybersecurity for both the public and private sector as well as for those to protect civilian infrastructures.
Build trust to capitalize on the potential of the digital transformation
The rapid transformation to digital of our economies generates an increasing need for trust and security.
Lack of existing cybersecurity infrastructure and technologies risks being the Achilles’ heel of digitalisation in Europe.
The demonstration of successful cyberattacks across a wide range of geographies and sectors demonstrates the vulnerability of digital assets and undoubtedly justifies the trend for more investment in cybersecurity.
The EIB is a key player when it comes to supporting the emergence of and building capacity in a new sector for Europe.
Given the risks and the emergence of new threats across all areas of the economy, it is the EIB’s mission to provide financing for innovative solutions to tackle cybersecurity challenges.
Develop a strategic European eco- system with access to growth capital
The EIB actively supports investments in RDI by start-ups to large enterprises with facilities ranging from venture debt to senior debt.
Cybersecurity is a sector with a substantial potential for the EIB. For instance, the EIB recently signed a EUR 20m finance contract with the CS Communication & Systèmes (CS) Group in France to support the implementation of its research and development programme.
This type of financing has most often been made possible by a guarantee provided by the European Commission as part of the Juncker Plan, of which one of the priority actions is to promote innovation.
Likewise, the EIB’s subsidiary EIF makes investments in Venture Capital and Private Equity funds that are active in the technology sector, which in turn invest in equity in start-ups.
The EIF has committed funds to hundreds of ICT funds so far, focussing on digital technologies and cybersecurity.
Building a European ecosystem requires alignment and cooperation among European institutions.
The EIB and the European Defence Agency (EDA), within their respective remits, teamed up to support EU policy objectives, in particular as regards the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
The cooperation between the two entities materialises as major European initiatives supporting the EU level of ambition in the area of security and defence are launched, including a European Defence Fund.
The EDA will support the EIB in the identification and assessment of projects.
Encourage adoption through access to financing
The EIB Finances security investments, mainly consisting in components of large digitalisation projects and programmes to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructures and IT systems against cyber-attacks as well as other sectors making increasing use of digital such as the manufacturing, financial, healthcare or others.
The transition to digital economies requires investments in Cybersecurity as a vital response to increased threats of illegal access and malign use of data for the EU and global economies.
New technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the increase in connected devices are likely to magnify the potential of threats.
Despite the increased awareness of both private and public players, several major inhibitors are still hindering an effective implementation of cyber- security strategies, including: lack of top management buy-in, budget and resource constraints, skills shortages and limited access to talent pool.
In addition, it is crucial to speed up investment in the secure functioning of the electronic infrastructure on which most of economic transactions will be based directly or indirectly.
Successfully addressing these issues skills and infrastructure and access to finance while leveraging on Europe strong knowledge and industrial basis would allow Europe to navigate its way through the 2nd wave of digital/technological revolution.
Vice President of the European Investment Bank
Vice President of the European Investment Bank