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June 21, 2023

NATO Unleashes Tech Accelerator to Empower Europe's Armies

NATO Invests €50m Annually to Revolutionize Europe's Defense Forces with Advanced Engineering, Software, and AI

NATO, the military alliance, is set to embark on an ambitious mission to revolutionize Europe and North America's defense forces through its newly launched startup accelerator. With a substantial budget of approximately €50 million per year, the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, or Diana, aims to infuse cutting-edge technology into the armed forces. This program will provide grant funding, mentorship, and valuable exposure to investors for promising startups across both continents.

The driving force behind Diana is to foster a paradigm shift in defense, moving away from traditional approaches and outdated players. Deeph Chana, the managing director of the accelerator, envisions a wide-reaching network that attracts and engages with innovators from various backgrounds. NATO's accelerator will establish its headquarters at Imperial College London, creating a dynamic hub for innovation and collaboration.

In recent years, Europe has experienced a notable increase in interest surrounding emerging military technologies. Ongoing conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine, have become real-world testing grounds for advancements in satellite technology, unmanned vehicles, and software for enhanced communication. Artificial intelligence has also played a crucial role in data analysis, assisting Ukraine in sifting through vast amounts of surveillance data.

This endeavor by NATO represents a significant step in bringing a Silicon Valley mindset to European militaries. With the exception of France and the UK, the continent's armed forces have faced criticism for their sluggishness in modernizing and investing in their own futures.

The accelerator will kickstart with a series of challenge competitions focused on energy resilience, secure information sharing, sensing and surveillance. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to apply their technologies to both civilian and military contexts, embracing the concept of "dual-use." In its inaugural year, the program plans to award funding to up to 30 selected startups, with the number of challenges and grants expanding annually until the program reaches full operation in 2025.

To ensure a diverse and expansive reach, the accelerator will conduct technology challenges across multiple research sites in Europe and the US, including renowned institutions and innovation hubs. Funding for winning startups will range from €100,000 for the first phase of the project to €300,000 for the second phase, with no ownership stake taken by NATO. An important requirement for participation is that companies must be incorporated in one of NATO's 31 member countries.

Although the invasion of Ukraine is often cited as a catalyst for this tech-focused endeavor, Chana emphasizes that NATO was already on this trajectory prior to those events. However, Europe's militaries face the challenge of integrating new technologies into their operations due to risk-averse procurement processes, which typically hinder the speed and agility that startups thrive upon.

However, the changing security landscape and the pressing circumstances arising from the Ukrainian conflict have profoundly influenced the conversation, driving European nations to revamp their military capacities. NATO endeavors to bridge the divide between the continent's armed forces and the enterprising mindset of its innovators, ensuring their significant contribution to shaping a secure future.

In conclusion, NATO's Diana accelerator represents a dynamic initiative to empower startups, leverage technological advancements, and strengthen the defense capabilities of Europe and North America. Through collaboration, investment, and the fostering of innovation, this program aims to pave the way for a resilient and future-ready defense sector in both continents.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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