Between 2007 and 2017, the European Union (EU) has spent almost 2 billion euros on security research. That money is used to fund innovative research projects on a variety of topics, ranging from radicalisation to detection of drinking water contamination. But why is the EU funding security research? How is it for a criminologist to work in this area? And what are the biggest challenges my colleagues and I are facing?

Let's start with the first question, why does the EU fund security research? The basic idea behind EU funded security research is that the projects that are financed develop the technologies and tools that Europe needs to tackle the threats (terrorism, cybercrime, organised criminality, natural and man-made disasters) it is facing. The EU has been funding security research projects since 2004. In the early 2000s, transnational developments and changes in the global landscape sparked a debate on security and stability in Europe. The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the looming threat of bioterrorism and the rise in organised crime in certain parts of the world, had raised serious concerns about security. The scale of these threats and their cross-border nature, called for a European solution. A series of measures and actions was proposed, including research cooperation. To achieve the desired level of cooperation and build joint solutions, the EU needed a security research programme. Discussions between the European Commission, the Council, the European Parliament and relevant stakeholders resulted in the launch of a preparatory action on security research in 2004. Three years later, a security theme was included in the seventh framework programme (2007-2013). Nowadays security research is an integral part of the EU framework programme structure, and research in this area seems more important than ever.

How did I end up working in this area? After completing the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice, I went back to the Netherlands to do a second Master in European Law. I applied for a Bluebook traineeship at the European Commission, and was offered a position in the security policy and research unit. I soon discovered that working on EU security research was a perfect way to combine my legal background with my interest in crime and security. I could apply my legal knowledge and skills, whilst working on issues I deeply cared about.

Shortly after my traineeship, I returned to the Commission as legal officer. Within this role, I carry out a variety of legal and policy-oriented tasks, and I am responsible for a number of research projects. Projects usually involve various actors (e.g. industry, academia, law enforcement) from different EU Member States, who collectively address a single challenge or a set of challenges. Some consortia consist of more than 25 beneficiaries, who each contribute their unique expertise and knowhow to the project. More and more practitioners (e.g. coast guards, bomb squads, police departments) are becoming involved in EU security research, which is very important because they provide the input and feedback that only someone who has actually been in the field or at sea can give. Some of the most interesting and eye-opening conversations I had in the last years were exchanges with practitioners.

The projects that I manage mainly concern explosives research (e.g. detection techniques, counter tools, critical infrastructure protection). A bit of a change from the social science topics I used to work on, but it made me grow and helped me to develop a more holistic understanding of security. It has also - quite literally - allowed me to get my feet wet and experience a different side of research. As most projects in the area of explosives include lab work and field trials, I often end up standing up to my ankles in the mud at test sites during project demonstrations.

What are the biggest challenges my colleagues and I are facing? I think that there are two main challenges: setting the right research agenda and translating research results in actual solutions. Agenda setting is complicated because we need to identify capability gaps, predict developments in the security landscape, prioritise issues and anticipate future needs. We need to estimate which tools first responders will need in 5-7 years, without knowing exactly how the world will look by then. Different parties support us with this task, but it remains a complex exercise. The second challenge relates to the uptake of research results. Projects can deliver amazing results, but if nothing happens with those results after a project ends, we aren't achieving our objective: making Europe more secure. We will have to find ways to promote the transformation of promising research findings into actual policy actions and concrete products.

Annieke Logtenberg has been working for the European Commission since 2014. As legal officer in the Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, she primarily worked on security research and security industrial policy issues. She is currently seconded to the Terrorism and Radicalisation unit, to contribute to the review of a Regulation on explosives precursors. Annieke has an LLM in European Law from the University of Utrecht, and completed the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice in 2012 at the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford.