Dual tech companies have a lot to offer the defence sector

Blog post
Sauli Eloranta

The changed global situation is strongly reflected in technological developments and thus in the way companies are operating. The rapid pace of development of civilian technologies has changed the traditional marching order in defence technology development. The biggest leaps are being made by companies developing civil technologies, and their interest in the defence market has increased. In Finland too, several operators are offering ways for companies to enter the new sector – the latest being NATO's DIANA accelerator and test centres. These are opportunities worth seizing now.

Defence is one of the fastest growing industries in the current global environment. Finland has a particularly large number of companies that have not been active in the defence sector before, but whose knowledge, technology and products are in high demand for new applications.

The Finnish defence industry is not very large on a global scale, but has considerable growth potential when successfully integrating solutions developed by civilian companies. On the civilian side, particularly in the consumer business, development cycles are very fast – especially in terms of cost efficiency.

Many operators have noticed a growing interest in the defence market, and companies are being offered support and tools to engage in this new market. Potential dual use companies are therefore in prime position to deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions to an industry that is not known for its speed and agility.

NATO's DIANA accelerator and test centres at the service of companies

DIANA is a new mechanism between NATO member countries to support companies that have not previously been active in the defence sector. Participation in DIANA offers companies the opportunity to test their new solutions at test centres, as well as the chance to accelerate their business. The first Finnish company to participate in DIANA is GIM Robotics, which last year joined the NATO DIANA accelerator in Estonia.

The DIANA activities to be established in Finland will focus on developing next generation  communication technologies. The decision is significant because, for the first time, a Finnish operator will be able to organise NATO's DIANA innovation activities for promising technology companies from different NATO countries.

Finland's focus on communications technologies suits the “land of Nokia”, well, as Finland has achieved an internationally significant position in the field and because it is one of the key technologies in the defence sector. There is significant business potential in the defence market both now and in the future, especially in digital solutions.

Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine has shown the importance of civilian solutions such as satellite communications and situational awareness, drones and crowd-sourced digital solutions. All these use digital solutions, in particular next-generation communication technologies. Even ordinary solutions can be innovative and important in a new application.

Support available for companies in Finland

Support is available to companies in the form of funding, ecosystem activities and other forms of cooperation.

  • Tesi (Finnish Industry Investment Ltd) coordinates Finland's participation in the NATO innovation fund NIF. The NATO Innovation Fund invests in deep tech start-ups and the venture capital funds investing in them in the participating NATO countries.
  • Business Finland is planning the Digital Resilience programme to fund RDI work on the digital society and critical infrastructure, and to support exports.
  • Patria's new eALLIANCE leading project will strengthen cooperation between Finnish civilian and defence technology companies by creating disruptive digital solutions.
  • The Association of Finnish Defence and Aerospace Industries AFDA is organising, among other things, ‘tech talks’, seminars, webinars and hackathons.
  • The Digital Defence ecosystem (DDE) is bringing together a significant number of defence-oriented technology companies to deliver innovative digital solutions and significant new export-driven business to international markets.
  • The Defence Innovation Network Finland Define initiative aims to intensify cooperation between the City of Riihimäki and the Defence Forces to create new innovations and high-skilled jobs.
  • For defence and security start-ups, the Finnish Business Angels Network FiBAN, in cooperation with the defence ecosystem, is organising the Pitch Finland DefSec competition on 7 June 2024.

Invitation to the DIANA challenge!

VTT is inviting all companies and start-ups interested in DIANA activities to participate in this year's DIANA challenge. Companies selected for the challenge will be admitted to an accelerator programme free of charge and receive a €100,000 donation. Those progressing further will also receive a €300,000 donation and a six-month admittance to an accelerator programme designed just for their company. More information on the challenges can be found on DIANA’s website.

During the spring and summer, we will hold information sessions on DIANA innovation activities and challenges.

A special invitation is addressed to tech companies in NATO´s latest member Sweden – welcome to apply for DIANA challenge programmes!

Sauli Eloranta
Sauli Eloranta
Our vision beyond 2030

A safe society is a wonderful thing. It should be treasured and strengthened so that known and unknown threats both in the real and virtual worlds do not jeopardise it.