The new mine countermeasures (MCM) programme: a motor for Belgium’s economy
As part of a joint MCM programme with the Netherlands, Belgium has set out ambitious plans to transfer knowledge and technology into carefully targeted domains across all its regions. The aim is to equip businesses, and its R&D base, with high-value expertise—boosting the country’s industry and driving exports. These benefits must deliver a multiplier effect beyond the programme itself and be sustainable for the long-term. Success will require a clear strategy from the programme provider to harness global expertise and leverage it locally. A “manage-from-abroad” approach is not enough: the provider must be deeply—and permanently—embedded in Belgium itself. This model alone can enable seamless and on-time programme delivery, the development of the local skills base, and lock in economic benefits for the long-term.
Only SNS has a centre of gravity anchored in Belgium
SNS boasts two Belgian majors among its four world-class players: Thales Belgium, with seven sites and a team of over 800, and Engine Deck Repair (EDR) with a 250-strong team and Belgium’s largest shipyard in Antwerp. This powerful combination is unique to SNS, enabling it to locate programme management and decision-making in the country. This, in turn, anchors the consortium’s centre of gravity firmly in Belgium, and provides the master key to unlock the other economic requirements. SNS plans 82 projects involving over 50 companies (78% of which are SMEs), academies and research centres. 500 sustainable jobs will be quickly created across the country’s three regions. In total, the social dividend from SNS’s strategy will amount to €2.3bn.
A clear plan to embed systems excellence and expertise
The approach embeds skills for the long-term and enables the main contractors, local supply chain players, and the customer, to operate as a closely connected ecosystem. It also means global expertise can be transferred into Belgium—permanently. This is personified by Thales Belgium’s commitment to draw on the wider group’s excellence in naval communications, digital, and command and control and information systems—drawing in knowledge from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. New centres of excellence will be created for artificial intelligence, simulation and cybersecurity in Ghent, Tubize, and Liège, with identified Belgian universities networking across the globe to feed the programme now, and in the future, as unmanned technologies develop. This will ensure Belgium is well positioned to play a leading role in European research programmes such as the European defence industrial development programme (EDIDP) and Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
How SNS will generate a multiplier effect for Belgium’s businesses
High-value expertise will also be spread across the shipbuilding industry: the consortium’s solid local core allows SNS to carry out all integration, validation, and qualification of the programme’s systems in Belgium. Here, a raft of local players will all develop high-end know-how. Well-developed plans for rapid knowledge transfer from two other SNS members, Chantiers de l’Atlantique and Socarenam, will also see EDR take on the construction of the upper parts of the motherships (which encompasses all highly-technological command and control aspects of the ship), their fitting out, and the highly skilled task of installing cabling and electrics. This will revitalise Belgian shipbuilding and generate a further multiplier effect for other local businesses.
A commitment to sustaining the benefits for the long-term
SNS has thought carefully about how to distribute and lock-in the programme’s economic and social dividends from the start—with returns evenly distributed in Flanders (70%) and Wallonia/Brussels (30%). Plans to transfer expertise, maximise in-country construction, and carry out all maintenance at EDR’s world-class facilities, mean Belgium’s companies and workforce can position themselves rapidly to leverage this effect, winning business in related areas. And, by maintaining the same structure of partners (both large and small) into the future, the country will forge a supply chain with first-mover advantage for future large unmanned MCM projects. These represent a strong growth market which will be open to local players—including SMEs—in the long-term, through SNS’s global reach.