idD Portugal Defence is responsible for the implementation of the Accelerator that Portugal will host as part of NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), aimed at supporting Defence technological entrepreneurship.

In addition, Portugal has signed up for the NATO Innovation Fund, which is a fund aimed at investing in start-ups that develop dual-use deep-tech, complementing the work of DIANA.

The Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) is a NATO initiative launched in 2022 looking towards supporting the development of innovative projects aimed at supporting the Alliance’s technological edge.

DIANA is composed by nine accelerators and over sixty test centers, as well as two regional headquarters, one in the United Kingdom and the other one in Canada, which are responsible for a Rapid Adoption Service (to support the development and rapid adoption of DIANA solutions by Allies and NATO) and a Trusted Capital Database (to facilitate and/or connect certified innovators and certified investors).

The main function of this initiative is to promote the security and defence challenges indicated by the Armed Forces, so that innovative entities can develop quick adoption solutions that correspond to the designated requirements.

DIANA will launch several challenges to looking for responses to operational needs, to which entities with concrete proposals for solutions may apply.

In a first phase, in 2023, three pilot challenges will be launched, with their launching scheduled for April. In the future, and until 2025, it is planned to launch up to ten challenges per year.

idD Portugal Defence will promote these challenges in Portugal.

DIANA’s main focus will be the development of deep-tech technologies, more specifically, within the scope of emerging and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, autonomous systems, quantum technology, biotechnology, new materials, hypersonics and space, which may be of dual-use, that is, for commercial and defence applications.

For 2023, the challenges will focus on energy resilience, secure information sharing and detection and surveillance through sensors.

For all innovators, from start-ups to established companies, headquartered and with activity in an Allied nation, and which provide dual-use advanced technology solutions, at level 4 or more in terms of technological readiness.

For each challenge, 20 entities will be selected.

The selection is made by the DIANA team, with advice from experts, potential end-users, the NATO scientific community, and associated test centers and accelerators.

The selection will be made based on the submitted proposal, considering whether it responds to the challenge presented by DIANA, whether it has operational application, whether it is technologically viable, and whether it exists commercially, further taking into account the innovation of the proposed solution.

The 20 selected entities will have up to six months to develop their proposal, after which a demonstration session will take place. In this session, 3 of the 20 projects will be selected to further work on the proposal for another six months, culminating, again, in a demonstration session. This session will aim to attract investment in order to develop the proposed solution up to TRL 9 and subsequent adoption.

€50,000 will be awarded to the first 20 selected entities, and another €150,000 to the entities that move on to the second phase of the acceleration process.

DIANA offers a support package that includes:

  • Financing, to cover costs during the incubation program;
  • Mentoring and training, with a view to advising on the development of solutions in order to meet the requirements of end users and in order to assist in the adoption phase and acquisition process;
  • Trial and test opportunities, with access to a network of over 60 test centers within the Alliance, alongside associated cost support;
  • Connection to investors, through the promotion of the entities among trusted investors within the Alliance;
  • Access to 30 markets, corresponding to the 30 members of NATO.

Portugal was selected to host a test center, at the Navy’s Operational Experimentation Center (CEOM) in Tróia, and an accelerator, to be installed at Arsenal do Alfeite, for which idD Portugal Defence is responsible.

Furthermore, Portugal has been contributing to the definition of challenges by sharing the needs of the Portuguese Armed Forces, through the National Representative to the Board of Directors, which guides DIANA’s work.

It is further expected that Portugal participates through the submission of proposals by Portuguese entities to the challenges launched by DIANA. These will promoted online and, eventually, at an event dedicated to promoting the participation of Portuguese entities in DIANA’s programmes.

At the NATO Summit in 2021, the NATO Innovation Fund was launched as a venture capital fund aimed at investing  in start-ups that are developing dual-use, emerging and disruptive technologies, in critical areas for the security of the Allies, which could be seen as a complement to DIANA.

The NATO Innovation Fund will invest in start-ups with products that can be tailored to respond to the Alliance’s defence and security challenges, such as those affecting critical infrastructure. Notwithstanding the need to respond to defence and security challenges, the focus of the investments will be on companies that develop dual-use technologies, in particular start-ups that develop hardware solutions based on emerging and disruptive technologies.

As an opt-in initiative, the following nations have committed to participate in the NATO Innovation Fund: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, The Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.