STUTTGART, Germany — NATO’s nascent defense technology accelerator is preparing to launch the first several competition-style programs, meant to help the alliance find solutions to emerging technology problems.

NATO plans to begin this fall initial “challenges” under the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, or DIANA, initiative, the alliance announced March 22. The events will pit competitors against each other to solve real-world security issues, such as operating in a GPS-denied environment, officials previously explained.

A call for participants to apply for the challenges is to take place in mid-2023, and up to 30 participants are to be selected for each challenge. The number of challenges and awardees is expected to grow annually until the program is fully operational by 2025, according to NATO.

The first challenges will take place at the following five accelerator sites, pending the conclusion of contractual arrangements:

  • 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.

Click here to see DIANA’s test center locations

NATO members formally agreed to launch the DIANA initiative in April 2022, along with an initial €1 billion (U.S. $1.1 billion) investment in an innovation fund. The goal is for DIANA to help the alliance speed up trans-Atlantic cooperation on technologies such as artificial intelligence, big-data processing, energy and propulsion, autonomy, space, biotechnology, hypersonics, and quantum advancements.

DIANA will also build a network meant to support defense- and national security-focused tech startups that are developing NATO-relevant efforts through grant programs.

In December 2022, the DIANA board of directors agreed that energy resilience, secure information sharing, as well as sensing and surveillance would be the initiative’s technology priorities for 2023. Barbara McQuiston, deputy chief technology officer for science and technology at the U.S. Defense Department, is chair of the board. Imre Porkoláb, ministerial commissioner for defense innovation at Hungary’s Defence Ministry, serves as vice chair.

The board also recently agreed to add 28 new “deep-tech test centers” to the entity’s footprint, alongside two new accelerator sites in North America. That brings the total number of test centers to 91, with 11 accelerator sites, the alliance said March 22. That footprint is expected to continue to grow, according to NATO officials.

The Europe-based accelerator sites are currently located in London, England; Copenhagen; Brussels and Wallonia in Belgium; Tallinn; Turin; Prague, Czech Republic; Ankara, Turkey; Lisbon, Portugal; as well as Athens and Heraklion in Greece. In the United States, Boston and Seattle each host an accelerator site.

Click here to see DIANA’s accelerator sites

France intends to give DIANA access to national technology accelerators drawn from across its domestic innovation sector, according to NATO.

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

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.

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