TALLINN – A NATO innovation accelerator in Estonia is one of the first five such accelerators to start operating in the first pilot year of the alliance's DIANA innovation accelerator network, the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications said on Thursday.
Companies will be able to apply for a place in the accelerators this summer, still before the NATO Summit in Vilnius.
"Offering possibilities to startups to develop dual-use deep-technology solutions to protect the security of us all is the main task for the DIANA accelerators. I am extremely pleased that our efforts have borne fruit and that Estonia is among the first countries where such accelerator, which is also new for NATO, will open its doors," Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Kristjan Jarvan said in a press release.
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur noted that the first selected thematic areas are of great interest for our defense forces, as secure data exchange, identification and monitoring were also among the topics proposed by them.
"We hope that this accelerator will provide useful developments for the advancement of our defense capability and will become a good partnership between private business and the defense forces. In addition, it is a credit to Estonia that the European headquarters branch of DIANA will be in Tallinn," Pevkur said.
The Estonian accelerator will be implemented by the science and business campus Tehnopol together with Tartu Science Park and the business accelerator Startup Wiseguys. The goal of the accelerator is to support deep technology startups that contribute to national security and defense by bringing together talented innovators and end users of new technologies.
In the accelerator, dual-use technologies will be developed that are usable for both civil and defense purposes. The NATO accelerator in Estonia will primarily enable startups from Estonia and the nearby region to develop their product and business model and find partners in the alliance-wide defense market, which is usually closed to outsiders and has a high barrier to entry.
Several local testing environments for new technologies will be linked up to the DIANA accelerator network: the University of Tartu, TalTech, the CR14 foundation, the Estonian Military Academy, Milrem Robotics, the Estonian Aviation Academy and the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences. Also, all companies participating in the accelerator will be able to use nearly a hundred testing centers of NATO countries.
In the first year of piloting, a few dozen startups will be selected at all the accelerators combined, who will receive funding from NATO to develop their idea. The DIANA accelerator program consists of two six-month phases. After six months, only the most promising startups will continue in each accelerator, who will receive additional support.
"Both Tehnopol and our good partners have worked hard to get the DIANA accelerator to come to Estonia. This is undoubtedly a very important step for the Estonian startup sector and aligns well with our goal of supporting world-changing technologies," said Indrek Orav, CEO of Tehnopol.
At the end of last year, NATO approved the DIANA Board of Directors' strategic focus areas for 2023: security of supply of energy, secure data exchange, identification and monitoring. At the beginning of the summer, a competition will be announced for startups to offer solutions in these focus areas, and during the summer the best ones will be selected that will be able to start working on accelerator programs from the autumn.
In addition to Estonia, DIANA accelerators will also open this year in Turin, Italy, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Seattle and Boston in the United States.