Third DEFRA Call

The Council of Minister has approved the Defence Science and Technology Programme for 2023, including the third DEFRA call.

During a dedicated information session, the DEFRA team presented the objectives, the themes and modalities of this third call for proposals to researchers from both the public and private sector.
Presentations Information Session

Themes & budget

The third call of the DEFRA programme covers the following research themes, with their indicative budget:

  Indicative budget in K€
Theme 1: CYBER - Automated certification of software
1 600
Theme 2: Autonomous systems - Human-machine Teaming 1 600
Theme 3: Open theme SMEs - Research on innovative and future-oriented defence solutions with specific interest for CBRN-Medical Response, Decontamination and Protection and Weapon Systems - Improved ammunition systems 2 400
Theme 4: Advanced sensor technologies - Radar and (multi)-sensor systems 1 600
Theme 5: Materials - Protective characteristics 1 600

More information on the call themes...

For all themes, projects will have a duration of minimum 2 and maximum 4 years.

There is no set maximum budget per project. However, applicants should take into consideration the total available budget for each theme. The objective is to develop a project with the most efficient use of public resources.

The number of projects that will be funded per theme depends on the evaluation of the proposals and the requested budget per proposal. It is envisaged to have 1 or more projects funded for each of the themes. Budget transfers between the themes are possible.

Proposals can only be introduced in the “Open theme SMEs” if the subject of the proposal does not correspond with one of the other four themes.


Activity Deadline
Launch of the third DEFRA call 07/02/2023
Information session 13/02/2023
Deadline Pre-proposals 16/03/2023
Communication of evaluation result pre-proposals 30/03/2023
Deadline Full proposals 27/04/2023
Remote scientific peer review evaluation 25/05/2023
Feedback to applicants in preparation of panel meeting
(consensus reports & questions to applicants)
Written feedback by applicants (answers) 30/06/2023
Panel evaluation, incl. interviews with the applicants Between 28/08/2023 and 06/09/2023
Selection proposal formulated by the scientific committee of the RHID 15/09/2023
Final selection of proposals by the board of directors of the RHID and allocation of projects 28/09/2023
Signature contracts 14/11/2023



The pre-proposals as well as the full proposals must be electronically created, elaborated and submitted via the online submission platform.
The template for the full proposals is made available on the website. However, after the evaluation of the pre-proposals a maximum of five pre-proposals per theme will be invited to submit a full proposal.


  • Deadline Pre-proposals: 16 March 2023 - 14h00
  • Deadline Full proposals: 27 April 2023 - 14h00

More information on the call themes

Theme 1 Title: Focus area
Cyber Automated certification of software Cyber Security
Budget Duration Remarks
1600k min 2 – max 4 years Collaboration with RMA is mandatory


Determining whether the cybersecurity risk, associated with using a specific software in a given environment, is acceptable or not, is referred to as “certification”. Certification is currently a slow and complex process, that does not scale with the increasing amount of software that is present in both our corporate IT environment and in our operational and weapon system networks. This is due to the important workload that a certification process generates for the human evaluators, as well as the fact that an evaluation cannot easily be decomposed into smaller (reusable) parts.
A solution to this problem would be to produce software design models that facilitate the automatic evaluation, and to have a trustworthy manner to independently evaluate the components or subsystems that make up a system and subsequently aggregate the resulting insurance evidence.
The goal is to automate the generation and evaluation of software assurance evidence, making it possible to rapidly determine whether system risk is acceptable when adding a specific new software or a software update into an environment. This will make it possible to adopt a continuous certification and mission risk evaluation attitude.

Theme 2 Title: Focus area
Autonomous systems Human-machine Teaming Human Systems and Behaviour
Budget Duration Remarks
1600k min 2 – max 4 years None


Autonomous systems have the potential to accomplish missions more quickly and effectively, while reducing risks to human operators and costs. However, since the use of autonomous systems is still relatively new, there are still a lot of challenges associated with trusting these systems. Without operators in direct control of all actions, there are significant concerns associated with endangering human lives or damaging equipment. Innovative solutions that address how trust in autonomous systems need to be established and strengthened.
Trust from humans to autonomous agents is governed by a trust-triangle, which defines three basic factors that define the appropriateness of trust & mistrust of humans in autonomous systems. Next to these human factors aspects, there is also an important socio-ethical dimension. Successful human-machine teaming requires interaction and dialogue between several domains/fields (i.e. AI/computer science, robotics, psychology, neurosciences). Indeed, research in psychology and neuroscience and technological advances in AI and robotics have led to insights into the underlying capabilities needed to support this level of autonomy and teaming, and could further guide future developments.

Theme 3 Title: Focus area
Open theme SMEs Research on innovative and future-oriented defence solutions with specific interest for CBRN-Medical Response, Decontamination and Protection and Weapon Systems - Improved ammunition systems This call is open in all focus areas
Budget Duration Remarks
2400k min 2 – max 4 years Collaboration with at least one SME is mandatory


This call is “open” to any research for defence across a broad spectrum within the Defence focus areas mentioned earlier. Collaboration with at least one SME is required: this call encourages the driving role of SMEs in bringing forward innovation, agility and ability to progress technologies, possibly adapting them from civil to defence applications.  The proposals must address innovative defence technologies and solutions, including those that can improve readiness, deployability and sustainability in all spectra of tasks and missions, for example in terms of operations, equipment, basing, energy solutions, … The goal of this open call is to achieve innovative and cost-effective solutions for defence applications, ground-breaking or novel concepts and approaches, new promising future technological improvements or the application of technologies or concepts previously not applied in the defence sector.

Theme 4 Title: Focus area
Advanced sensor technologies Radar and (multi)-sensor systems Sensor Data Processing and Sensor Fusion
Budget Duration Remarks
1600k min 2 – max 4 years None


Radar operation must be compatible with other communication and control systems running concurrently. Management of emission and sensing in both space and frequency increases the systems covertness and improves the system’s ability to discriminate reliably signals. Emerging technologies lead to the increased appearance of threats that are difficult to detect and track causing existing surveillance systems to reach their limits in terms of e.g. detection range or angular domain coverage. Research efforts have the goal to create more flexible and adaptive systems in terms of modes of operation and beamforming and offer possibilities to explore different frequency ranges while maintaining a high signal-to-noise ratio. Advances in computing power, digital data and signal processing, have paved the way for better sensors, with increased sensitivity and better detection characteristics. The goal is enhancing detection performance of sensor systems to detect low signature targets, while maintaining as much as possible covert operation, without exposing presence, identity and location. It encompasses innovative concepts of sensor use, in particular the combination of multiple, heterogeneous sensors. The sensors’ integration and interoperability with other sensors (networks) and connection to battlefield management systems can also be addressed.

Theme 5 Title: Focus area
Materials Protective characteristics Protection of personnel, systems and infrastructure
Budget Duration Remarks
1600k min 2 – max 4 years None


This theme brings together all the technologies related to optimise the protection of weapon systems in all situations and circumstances against existing and future threats.
Topics include but are not limited to novel composite structures/materials, near-net shape production techniques (e.g. 3D-printing) and design against emerging or future blast and ballistic threats.
Novel structures in advanced composite materials for instance have as a possible main advantage their lighter weight, and they can hence improve the performance of air, sea and land vehicles and in particular their speed and manoeuvrability.
Another possible subtopic would be the development of specific structures/materials in the military field that are subject to relatively aggressive environments, and are not sensitive to the effect of prematurely aging e.g. due to water or wind erosion, extreme high and low temperatures or more generally humidity. An improvement in environmental resistance will improve product performance and reduce the need for maintenance, thereby increasing their rate of operational readiness.
Another example can be 3D printing that allows room for design freedom, which in turn can improve the performance of military applications, for example by making weapons or vehicles lighter.
Ballistic protection is always a balanced choice between the risk and the downside of the provided protection (higher weight, complex technology,…).
The theme is therefore cross-domain applicable to many defence related programs such as the next generation aerial platform (helicopters, drones,..), future land and naval platforms, the equipment of the soldier in the future, etc..

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