NATO picks first flock of startup pitches in push for fresh tech
COLOGNE, Germany — Officials at NATO’s new technology incubator have selected 44 companies’ proposals for an inaugural round of
COLOGNE, Germany — Officials at NATO’s new technology incubator have selected 44 companies’ proposals for an inaugural round of seed funding meant to grow the alliance’s technology base in undersea sensing, energy resilience and secure information sharing.
The awardees, culled from 1,300 proposals, hail from 19 nations and will initially receive €100,000 for six months with the option of another €300,000 for another half-year, said Deeph Chana, managing director of the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic. Additional perks include access to alliance testing facilities and the ability to seek advice from NATO’s science-and-technology community.
Dubbed DIANA, the organization is tasked with sniffing out potentially disruptive technologies hiding in the startup scenes of NATO member nations.
The prospect of unearthing fresh tech talent among companies outside the military’s traditional supply chains has excited defense leaders on both sides of the Atlantic for years. In the case of DIANA, the focus lies on nursing ideas with both military and civilian applications, Chana told reporters.
That’s because the companies’ business propositions are stronger with feet in both worlds, Chana said. A company making mobile energy storage devices, for example, will serve requirements for expeditionary troop deployments as well as civilian projects in austere environments, making the business more “investable,” he added.
DIANA’s dual-use requirement also means the chosen projects must be useful in “reducing the likelihood of conflict” in the first place and mitigating harm to populations while they are ongoing, Chana said.
“It’s not a weapons program,” he said. Rather, the idea is to mature technologies that could work as tactical combat enablers.
Companies picked for grants are free to leave the NATO space at any time, and there are no classification requirements associated with the work — incentives officials hope will widen the pool of applicants.
One of DIANA’s focus areas is sensing threats on the seabed, a discipline catapulted into the headlines with the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea in September 2022.
“That’s an area where there were a huge amount of challenges in developing sensors and detectors,” Chana said. The difficulty lies in producing sensors that can work in great depths and transmit information from their remote locations, he added.
Southampton, England-based Aquark, one of the 44 chosen companies in the new DIANA awards wave, said in a statement it would bring to the table its work in miniaturized quantum technologies.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.