NATO established its Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) in 2022 as an initiative to accelerate and promote transatlantic cooperation on the development of critical
technologies and to harness civilian innovation to solve critical defence– and security–related issues. It has also established the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF) as the world’s first multi–sovereign venture capital fund to invest in start–ups and to provide funds to develop emerging dual–use technologies. Questions remain regarding engagement from member states, in particular the US with its highly guarded defence innovation system, and how innovation within NATO will be affected by the lack of a common regulatory regime on new technologies.
The EU established a defence innovation hub (HEDI) at its European Defence Agency in 2022, streamlining existing innovation work and adding new tasks. It seeks to attract non–traditional defence actors using challenges and prizes. In parallel, the European Commission has established a defence innovation scheme (EUDIS) using test hubs, hackathons, matchmaking and a defence equity facility to find synergies between civilian and military research, and support innovative companies entering the defence market. To what extent the funding will be sufficient and there is political will to support these measures, and how common procurement and export control regimes might impact defence innovation remain unclear.
The synergies, overlaps and gaps are many. On a positive note, the two organizations increasingly view defence innovation and emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) in a similar fashion. One area of potential competition is the security and ownership of intellectual property rights (IPRs), where protection of IPRs differs in an EU and a NATO context. Another area of friction could be funding, where the extent to which either organization could benefit from financial resources that stem from the other’s innovation system is unclear. In addition, both the EU and NATO are public bodies that are destined to want to justify public investments in defence. This is likely to lead to a potentially worrying situation in which an extremely low risk approach is adopted, where organizations only fund those defence innovation projects that they deem to have a high chance of success.
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