YPFP NATO Series 2023 – NATO and the Challenge of Defence Innovation

nato defence innovation nato series

Main takeaways:  

  • To survive and remain relevant in a multipolar world of rapidly evolving security risks and threats, and to compete successfully with Russia and China, NATO needs a new framework cantered on innovation as adaptation.
  • Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDTs) are expected to play a crucial role in developing NATO’s military capabilities. Therefore, NATO established, separately, DIANA and EUR 1 billion NATO Innovation fund to make the Alliance fit for purpose when it comes to new technologies’ development.
  • These initiatives demonstrate NATO's recognition of the importance of innovation in addressing security challenges and enhancing defense capabilities, fostering a culture of
    innovation and encouraging novel solutions to meet evolving threats.
  • Investments in research and development are not a matter of choice but a critical necessity. Significance of defence research and development should transcend political considerations and the focus on increased defence budgets alone.

The event took place on 11 May 2023, and was organised in partnership with NATO. The panel was attended by Zoe Stanley-Lockman, Deputy Head at the NATO Innovation Unit, Francesca
Tortorella, Senior Policy Officer at NATO DIANA, and Bernard Siman, Senior Associate Fellow at the Egmont Institute. The panel was moderated by YPFP Brussels Security and Defence Officer, Marina Otasevic.

The event opened with an overview by Francesca Tortorella on DIANA and the importance of technology and new capabilities for NATO.Zoe Stanley-Lockman introduced the NATO Innovation Fund, explaining that it is also part of the effort to create new mechanisms to engage innovators. She pointed out that the Alliance needs to work on harmonising innovation efforts with traditional defence planning timelines. Bernard Siman reflected on the importance of constant investment in research and development. This concerns not only defence, but also the resilience and readiness of the whole society. He emphasised how some technologies should be considered as a potential societal risk, since, if not regulated, they can cause damage that is just as severe as that of traditional weapons.

The following discussion with the participants focused on the NATO-EU cooperation on innovation; ethical standards; how NATO ensure that start-ups will not sell their patents to unfriendly third states; what are innovation priorities for NATO; how NATO ensures states agree on the tech priorities; how NATO can ensure that artificial intelligence will not be misused; and how generative AI will impact our society.

Written by Marina Otasevic, Security and Defence Officer, YPFP Brussels