Tallinn's Tehnopol Science and Business Park and Tartu Science Park will begin work this month as operators of the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, or DIANA. NATO's innovation accelerator will open its doors next year.
"This is an extremely important step that we are taking with our allies in terms of supporting and developing innovation in the defense industry," Ministry of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said in a press release. "The accelerator, which will begin operating in Tehnopol, will bring together talented ideas, researchers and technology companies to create the best solutions for the defense field."
Pevkur noted that the development of new products and technologies in the field of defense is expensive and difficult. "Thus our goal is that the accelerator helps complex ideas reach development and use," he said. "The most important thing here, however, is that the products being developed are usable, both for civilian and defense purposes."
"As a hotbed for new ideas and solutions, Tehnopol and Tartu Science Park together are ideal," said Minister of Entrepreneurship and IT Kristjan Järvan (Isamaa). "The accelerator will certainly enable Estonian entrepreneurs to develop their products and business models and to enter the market with needed and innovative solutions for the defense sector."
The accelerator will also create new opportunities and help find cooperation partners in the defense market across the alliance, which is normally closed and has a high entry barrier, he added.
According to Kadri Tammai, director of Tehnopol Startup Incubator, the opening of NATO's innovation accelerator in Estonia is of landmark importance in the development of the local startup ecosystem, and is a good fit for Tehnopol's goal of supporting world-changing technologies.
"Estonia is internationally known as a rapidly developing digital country, but we increasingly need to contribute to solving global problems in cooperation between research and business," Tammai said. "The accelerator aims to provide support to early stage high-tech startups across the region and to help them reach the world's largest customers and investors through a broad international network."
DIANA will combine several testing centers for new technologies in Estonia: the University of Tartu (TÜ), Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), NATO's CR14 cyber range as well as the Estonian Military Academy. All companies participating in the accelerator will also have access to some 70 NATO test centers.
Estonia, in cooperation with the U.K., will also be establishing DIANA's European headquarters, one of the branches of which will begin operating in Estonia in the first half of 2023.
DIANA establishment decided in 2021
NATO adopted the decision to establish DIANA in June 2021. The innovation accelerator aims to bring together allies' strengths in developing and deploying new and disruptive technologies for the benefit of the alliance's defense and security.
In cooperation with representatives from Estonia's Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, universities and the private sector, Estonia and the U.K. submitted an application for the program, which was approved in full on the proposal of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Estonia and the U.K. will work together to establish DIANA's European headquarters, the Ministry of Defense said. Also to be established within the DIANA framework are NATO's startup accelerator in Estonia and accelerators, a network of test centers and a database of reliable capital for startups throughout the alliance.
At the Madrid summit held in June, 22 NATO member states, including Estonia, signed the NATO Innovation Fund agreement, which includes €1 billion in funding. The fund intends to support dual-use deep-tech startups with investments by providing reliable capital and creating additional growth opportunities.
Since 2008, Estonia has also been home to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE), which is based in Tallinn.
Editor: Aili Vahtla