Andrea Gilli – Premio European Defence Agency

di Redazione

Andrea Gilli ha vinto il premio per la miglior tesi di dottorato su European Defense, Strategy and Security assegnato dalla European Defence Agency e dall’Egomont Institute.

Il 16 novembre 2015, invitato all’assemblea annuale della European Defence Agency, Andrea Gilli ha tenuto un breve discorso con cui, riassumendo i punti chiave della sua tesi, ha illustrato alcune delle principali sfide alla cooperazione industriale-militare in europa. Il discorso è disponibile in calce.

Andrea Gilli, PhD

Center for Security Studies

Metropolitan University Prague


Brussels, November 16 2015


Remarks Prepared for the 2015 European Defence Agency Annual Conference; Winner of the 2015 European Defence Agency-Egmont Institute Dissertation Prize on European Defence, Security and Strategy


Ladies and Gentlemen, all Authorities,

I am extremely honored to be here today to receive this prize and to have this great opportunity to share with you the contents of my work.

Before beginning, I would just like to thank the European Defense Agency and the Egmont Institute for this initiative in particular because it serves an important goal – bridging the gap between the world of academia and that of policy-makers.

Since my dissertation runs over 300 pages and I have only 5-to-7 minutes, I will employ a simple analogy, this iPad, to illustrate the key insights of my academic research.

If we look at the iPad, its evolution and its market success we can in fact identify many of the dynamics also shaping the defense industry, military technology and armaments cooperation in Europe. Today, I will discuss three of them.

First, as I was working throughout my PhD, and I saw the iPad disrupting existing IT markets and dramatically revolutionizing people’s work and life, I realized that most of what was written about my topic of inquiry did not consider a crucial aspect: the process of technological disruption.

Why is this important? In an age of fast technological change and budgetary constraints, we often hear that European countries have to increase their cooperation on armaments production. In my thesis, however, I argue that because of the very process of technological disruption, armaments cooperation is going to be extremely difficult primarily because companies are increasingly reluctant to share their advanced technologies and countries legitimately want to strengthen their national, rather than the European, defense industrial base.

Here we have a first structural problem: European countries need to cooperate on the development of future military technologies but cooperation on these systems is extraordinarily difficult. Unless dramatic socio-political changes will take place in Europe, finding a workable solution will not be easy – no matter how much we promote defense cooperation in general and armaments cooperation in particular.

Second, by looking at the iPad, I started wondering: what is its current analogy in defense markets? Specifically, what military technology is dramatically revolutionizing warfare? This initial question led me to study drones – unmanned aerial vehicles. By looking deeper, I discovered the iPad and drones have actually a lot in common: they both belong to the information age and they both exploit progress in sensors, processors and communications.

But there is more. Europe currently lags behind in drones and part of the reason has to do with the same process of technological disruption that prevented Apple’s competitors to anticipate the iPad challenge.

Consider: 20 years ago, European countries launched new military operations, their armed forces were transforming, and their defense industry was consolidating. Individuals and individual organizations were focused on these important tasks and they did a terrific job: we see how much our armed forces and defense industry have changed for the better during this period.

However, exactly because each organization was so diligently focused on its missions, there was less time and resources for unconventional thoughts and issues – like drones. This is exactly how disruptive innovations emerge: they surprise the incumbents who are too focused on their day-to-day business.

We have here a second structural problem. If European countries do not allocate more resources about figuring out the future, we risk in twenty years to meet again discussing why Europe lags behind in some other military technologies. However, as I have discussed before, working on those issues at the European level is extremely challenging, while a national approach is going to face tight budget constraints.

The third and final insight from my dissertation is about the similarities between Admiral Horatio Nelson and Steve Jobs. Like Nelson, in order to win major naval battles, was ready to trust and give freedom to his subordinates – the lower tiers of his fleet, so Steve Jobs understood that developments in component technologies – the lower tiers of the industry – would revolutionize IT markets for example through the iPad. What does this say about the defense industry?

Only established defense companies possess the specific knowledge the defense market demands and the technological know-how to meet high-end military requirements. However, they need small and medium enterprises for developing radical innovations – especially in the information age. Let’s not forget, the Global Hawk, the most capable American surveillance drone, is in fact a product of the cooperation between a large and a small company.

We have here a third structural problem: how, when and who should fund and support SMEs and how to promote cooperation between them and established companies, eventually at the European level? Also in this case, finding a solution is not going to be easy.

…I am towards the end of my time. Let me just add some final remarks. Conducting serious research in security studies, in Europe, is not easy for different reasons. A vibrant community of mostly young researchers does however a terrific job. I owe my gratitude to many of them, but today I would like to mention two in particular. Clara Marina O’Donnell and Alexandros Petersen. Clara and Alex were two young, bright and successful researchers working on the very issues we discuss here today. They were as humble as accomplished – and indeed I believe many of you knew them. They both passed away in two different but equally sad circumstances in January 2014 – just a few months before I defended my dissertation. I would like to dedicate this prize to their memory.

Thank you very much for you attention.

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