17 January

A Network against serious crime

FOI has been coordinating the five-year EU project EXERTER, which has now concluded. The objective of the project was to form a European network to connect practitioners with explosives specialists within the area of Security of Explosives. The project enhanced the possibilities for the actors involved to discuss capability requirements and emerging technological solutions to address serious crime.

Two people with FOI's and the Swedish Police Authority's jackets.

Two of EXERTER’s participating actors were FOI and the Swedish Police. Photo: FOI.

Today’s society is characterised by many different types of serious threats that, in the long run, can affect all citizens. It was with this in mind that the EU’s project EXERTER 2018 was launched.

EXERTER created opportunities for explosives specialists from 13 EU member states to gather to develop recommendations for addressing terrorism and serious crime.

Anneli Ehlerding, Deputy Research Director in FOI’s Weapons, Protection and Security Division, was project manager for EXERTER, which concluded in May 2023. As she explains it, “The aim of the network was to bring together various actors in the security of explosives area, for example representatives of manufacturers and industry, the research community, police and other law enforcement agencies and emergency services, to highlight the most pressing and demanding capability needs and the latest novel technologies and innovations.”

EXERTER functioned as a bridge between, on the one hand, developers and innovators and, on the other, police and other practitioners in the field, who are focused on fighting terrorism and other law enforcement responsibilities.

“We have informed about and discussed the uptake of new technology and how best to use it in various scenarios. These could involve new angles on recently released products that the police can utilise to maximum advantage, for example drones or detection tools for forensic investigations of crime scenes,” says Anneli Ehlerding.

The opposite – assisting product developers to understand end users’ needs – was also true: What does it really look like out in the field?

“We also talked about how current technology is addressing new and evolving threats, as well as what needs to be planned for the future.”

As coordinator, Anneli Ehlerding and FOI were involved in every facet of the project. Extensive networking also took place, encompassing various other projects and specialists. Although the project had 20 partners, about 300 participants in the external network engaged in FOI workshops, webinars and conferences.

“Over the past decade, we have coordinated more than ten comparable EU research projects in this field; as a result, we have established a network of contacts with numerous European organisations with whom we can collaborate. It has earned us a reputation for doing an excellent job.”

Anneli Ehlerding notes that it was a bit challenging when COVID-19 emerged in the midst of the project, but the issue resolved itself rather effectively.

“It was, of course, even more of a challenge than usual to have to engage in networking during COVID. We had to rethink everything, which also meant conducting so much of our work online, as webinars and virtual workshops and conferences. We had to shift our focus a bit, since you couldn’t talk about any sensitive or secret issues, either.”

As summarised by Anneli Ehlerding, the main outcome of the project is all the recommendations that the members of the network have jointly contributed to and discussed.

“Above all, one can say that we presented recommendations on what sort of research is required and what regulatory frameworks and procedures, such as standardisation, certification and information-sharing, need to be reviewed,” says Anneli Ehlerding.

Even though the project is now concluded, the majority of those who participated will continue to derive value from it in the future, she says. “It evolved into a network where people shared their experiences in solving various difficulties and challenges. Even if the project is no longer running, it can live on to generate many more opportunities for future cooperation. All the personal contacts have built mutual trust, so that we can continue to assist each other in exchanging information.

Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI

Research organisation, Sweden

Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology, ICT; and Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institute, EMI

Research organisation, Germany

Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, ENEA

Research organisation, Italy

Dutch Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, TNO

Research organisation, Netherlands

Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA

Police authority, Germany

National Institute of Aerospace Technology, INTA

Research organisation, Spain

University of Zagreb, Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering, RGNF

University, Croatia

Netherlands Ministry of Defence

National defence authority, Netherlands

Police Service of Northern Island, PSNI

Police authority, United Kingdom

Military Technical Academy “Ferdinand I,” MTA

National defence academy, Romania

Center for Security Studies, KEMEA

Research organisation, Greece

International Criminal Police Organization, Interpol

Police authority, France

Military University of Technology, WAT

University, Poland

Polish National Police, KSP

Police authority, Poland

Croatian Ministry of the Interior, MUP

Government authority, Croatia

Romanian Police, IGPR

Police authority, Romania

Portuguese Public Security Police, PSP

Government authority, Portugal

Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, FFI

Research organisation, Norway

Swedish Police

Police authority, Sweden

Spanish National Police, Ministry of the Interior

Government authority, Spain