NATO accelerator and two test centers to be established in Finland

NATO’s DIANA (Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic) program is expanding its network with new sites. Finland is now part of the network since the Board of the DIANA initiative approved a proposal to establish an accelerator and two test centers in Finland. The program’s mission is to help companies develop technology, innovation, and business for the civil and defense sectors.

The preparatory work, which started in spring 2023 and was led by the Ministry of Defence and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and required input from several operators, has reached its desired conclusion. VTT is setting up a DIANA accelerator in Otaniemi, Espoo, in collaboration with Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. The test centers will be established at the University of Oulu and VTT’s Otaniemi site.

The operations to be established in Finland will build on decades of solid technological expertise and market success. The accelerator and test centers’ technology themes are related to next-generation communication systems, 6G technology, cybersecurity, quantum, and space technologies.

“VTT is honored to be part of the DIANA network and its accelerator and test center activities. Finland’s world-class expertise helps pioneering companies to develop the deep technologies that will safeguard NATO and its billion inhabitants,” says Sauli Eloranta, Vice President of Defense at VTT.

DIANA accelerator to train companies to operate in the defense sector

VTT is setting up a DIANA accelerator in Otaniemi, Espoo, in collaboration with Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, which will focus on future communication systems and quantum technologies. This will provide a special training program that will help companies develop deep technologies and innovations for commercial and defense purposes. It will also provide companies with extensive and varied training on developing business opportunities in the defense sector.

The accelerator’s services will target start-ups and SMEs with limited experience in the defense and security sector.

“The long-awaited decision is significant for Finland as it is the first time Finnish operators can harness their cutting-edge expertise for NATO’s DIANA innovation activities on such a large scale. Our country has many technologically advanced and innovative start-ups and SMEs, which have found it difficult to invest in exports in the defense sector. DIANA will support this activity free of charge by using the accelerators to train companies in NATO technical and procurement requirements and developing company-specific business training programs. Such a mechanism provides a high-speed lane for companies to enter a difficult but fastest-growing industry internationally – I hope Finnish companies will participate as widely as possible,” says Eloranta.

DIANA selects accelerator companies through its application process, which is called the DIANA challenge program. The first round of applications for the Finnish DIANA accelerator will be launched in 2024, and it will be open to start-ups developing dual-use solutions in NATO countries.

Test centers provide tools for further technological development.

The technology test centers will be established at VTT’s Otaniemi site and the University of Oulu. VTT’s Otaniemi Test Centre will focus on secure connectivity, space, and quantum technologies. The University of Oulu test center will allow companies to test 6G network technologies.

DIANA test centers are places where companies can strengthen their technological expertise and competitiveness. The research infrastructure and experts the test centers provide will allow companies to evaluate their own concepts and technologies and get support to develop them. In practice, the test centers will consist of a comprehensive set of existing research facilities and equipment and top-level expertise in the sector. The centers will also support the development of start-ups participating in the accelerator program.

All companies in NATO countries will be able to purchase the test centre services, regardless of whether or not they belong to a DIANA accelerator.

“Finland has a strong position as a developer of civilian communications systems, thanks to companies like Nokia. DIANA offers a fast track for many companies to enter the NATO defense market,” says Eloranta.

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