NATO’s newly formed military technology accelerator is getting ready to roll out its first batch of competition-style initiatives aimed at helping the alliance find answers to issues related to emerging technologies.

Initial “challenges” under the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, or DIANA, initiative will start this autumn, NATO said on March 22. According to prior statements made by officials, the competitions will pit competitors against one another to find solutions to actual security challenges like working in a GPS-denied environment.

Midway through 2023, there will be a call for participants to submit applications for the tasks. Up to 30 people will be chosen for each challenge. According to NATO, the program will not be completely operational by 2025 if the number of awards and challenges doesn’t increase each year.

In the event that contractual agreements are reached, the following five accelerator locations will host the first challenges:

  • Tehnopol in Tallinn, Estonia.
  • Officine Grandi Riparazioni in Turin, Italy.
  • BioInnovation Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • MassChallenge in the U.S. city of Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Pacific Northwest Mission Acceleration Center in the U.S. city of Seattle, Washington.

The DIANA plan will be officially launched by NATO members in April 2022, along with an initial €1 billion (U.S. $1.1 billion) investment in an innovation fund. The objective of DIANA is to assist the alliance in accelerating transatlantic collaboration in areas such as big data processing, artificial intelligence, energy and propulsion, autonomous, space, biotechnology, hypersonics, and quantum advancements.

Additionally, DIANA will establish a network to aid tech startups working on NATO-related projects and with a defense and national security emphasis.

The DIANA board of directors decided that the initiative’s technology objectives for 2023 would be energy resilience, secure information sharing, sensing, and surveillance in December 2022. The board’s chair is Barbara McQuiston, the assistant chief technology officer for science and technology at the US Defense Department. Vice-chairman is Imre Porkoláb, ministerial commissioner for military innovation at the Hungarian military Ministry.

The board also recently decided to expand the organization’s reach by 28 new “deep-tech test centers” and two new North American accelerator locations. The alliance reported March 22 that this brings the total number of test locations to 91, including 11 accelerator sites. NATO leaders predict that footprint will continue to expand.

The present locations of the European accelerator sites include London, England; Copenhagen; Brussels and Wallonia in Belgium; Tallinn; Turin; Prague; Ankara; Lisbon; and Athens and Heraklion in Greece. Boston and Seattle both have accelerator sites within the United States.

According to NATO, France plans to grant DIANA access to national technology accelerators drawn from all areas of its domestic innovation industry.

Meanwhile, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States have offered to connect existing and new national test centers to DIANA’s network.


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