NATO 'defence accelerator' coming to Latvia

NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) program has announced a major expansion of its network of accelerator sites, which will in future include one in Latvia for the first time.

DIANA’s network will now comprise 23 accelerator sites (up from 11) and among the newcomers is UniLab Defence – a Rīga based DIANA program expected to start operations in 2025.

The accelerator site will be set by UniLab, a Latvian university business incubator that unites all four Latvian science universities – Rīga Technical University, the University of Latvia, Riga Stradiņš University and the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. UniLab will collaborate with its strategic partner Accelerace, Danish venture capital and acceleration fund.

UniLab Defence will focus on supporting startup companies developing dual-use technologies and will provide training, funding and commercial advice to them. Latvian as well as international companies from other NATO countries are expected to participate.

The accelerator will enable cooperation between the startups and the industry, National Armed Forces, Ministry of Defense, NATO and other stakeholders and potential partners.

Andris Baumanis, CEO of UniLab, said that the establishment of DIANA in Rīga will level the playing field for Latvian companies:

“We've seen that until now no Latvian company has been selected for DIANA accelerators. Setting one up in Rīga will help develop the local ecosystem through attraction of founders to this sector and support of companies already developing dual use and defence technologies."

The Ministry of Defense has already been running a grant program for the development of dual use and defence products. The establishment of the DIANA program however has the opportunity to take this from support of individual products to the development of a defense technology ecosystem in Latvia through increased financial support for startups, access to know-how and partners, and a community of other companies working in the sector.

Peter Marculans, Accelerace representative in Latvia, said: “While most venture capitalists still shy away from defense technologies, it is of critical importance that other startup funding sources such as DIANA and local governments step in to support these companies financially, and just as importantly – by providing industry specific know-how and access to stakeholders. Over time though, we expect to see a significantly increased private investor participation in this sector, not least because of NATO Innovation Fund and the swiftly changing perception of investing in defence and dual use technologies”.

DIANA is the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (Slogan: 'Uniting disruptors to shape a peaceful future'), an organisation established by NATO to improve dual-use innovation capacity across the Alliance.

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