Estonia to host a NATO startup accelerator

Estonia is to host a NATO startup accelerator as part of the alliance’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) programme.

The NATO leaders decided at the alliance’s Brussels 2021 summit to create an innovation accelerator, called the DIANA (Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic). The programme will allow allies to join their strengths in developing and adopting new technologies in security and defence.

In cooperation between the Estonian ministries of defence, foreign affairs, and economic affairs and communication, Estonia and the United Kingdom submitted a bid for the programme. According to the Estonian defence ministry, the UK and Estonia will create the DIANA European headquarters, a NATO start-up accelerator will be founded in Estonia, and several existing testing sites for new technologies will be added to the DIANA accelerator network.

Milrem’s autonomous unmanned aerial system, developed in Estonia. Image by Milrem.

Supporting deep technologies companies that contribute to defence

“Estonia and the UK are two of the most innovative nations in the alliance, hosting respectively the most unicorn firms per capita, and the most unicorns in total. With Estonia’s impressive leadership in cyber, autonomy and AI, and the close partnership forged through our enhanced forward presence (the UK leads the NATO battlegroup in Estonia – editor), they were a natural partner for the UK on this important initiative,” the UK’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said in a statement.

“The goal of DIANA is to support deep technologies companies that contribute to defence. It will bring together talented innovators with new technologies end-users in defence. We are very glad to see that the good cooperation we have with the UK will expand even further and also encompass our universities and private sector more,” the Estonian defence minister, Kalle Laanet, added.

In addition, Estonia will participate at the negotiations for the founding of a NATO innovation fund. The objective of the fund is to support dual-use deep technology startups with investments, by offering trusted capital and creating additional opportunities for growth. The member states that have decided to join the fund will formalise the agreement at the NATO summit, due to take place at the end of June in Madrid.

The launch of the DIANA programme is planned in 2023.

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