Written by Johannes Krause
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) initiative to foster the development of novel defence technologies is taking shape. NATO’s member states approved the charter of the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) on 7 April 2022 (NATO, 2022). DIANA, whose launch was announced in 2021, acts as a framework in which governments, academia, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations can come together to develop emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) relevant for security and defence (Machi, 2021). In setting up the DIANA framework, NATO hopes to foster the development of EDTs by creating a network of accelerators and test centres throughout the alliance’s member states. Additionally, DIANA will create two regional offices to coordinate research activities. Overall, DIANA is intended to emulate the US-American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the notoriously secretive government research organisation that pioneered early internet technologies.
The DIANA framework will emphasise the development of “artificial intelligence, autonomy, big-data processing, quantum-enabled technologies,” an ambitious research agenda, which will, in future, also include “propulsion and new materials” (Machi, 2022). Furthermore, interested parties will be able to participate in “so-called challenge programs.” These challenge programs are intended to accelerate the technological resolution of acute defence and security issues, such as operations in GPS-denied environments.
Crucially, as NATO officials have emphasised, DIANA is an initiative designed to foster and support, but not to “[take] over innovation for the NATO enterprise.” This commitment is reflected in the fact that DIANA “will not ask for or solicit companies’ intellectual property.” A further key component of the initiative is the creation of a trusted capital marketplace. This marketplace will have a dual function. First, it allows for smaller companies to access interested investors, and second, vetting of investors will prevent “illicit [technology] transfer” to hostile actors (Machi, 2021). Moreover, as a compliment to DIANA and its trusted capital marketplace, alliance members also agreed to the creation of an Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund, which is the “world’s first multi-sovereign venture capital fund,” boasts an initial endowment of 1 billion USD and will invest 77 million USD annually in early-stage start-ups developing EDTs (NATO, 2022). Currently, 21 of NATO’s 30 member states have already signalled their willingness to contribute to the Innovation Fund. Other member states will be able to also contribute down the road but won’t have control over the specifics of the fund’s framework.
Machi, M. (2022, April 6). NATO unveils tech accelerator footprint, with plans for over 60 sites. Defense News. https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2022/04/06/nato-unveils-tech-accelerator-footprint-with-plans-for-over-60-sites/.
Machi, V. (2021, June 22). NATO hopes to launch new defense tech accelerator by 2023. Defense News. https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2021/06/22/nato-hopes-to-launch-new-defense-tech-accelerator-by-2023/
NATO (2022, April 7). NATO sharpens technological edge with innovation initiatives. NATO News. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_194587.htm