VTT to spar with domestic companies to help them succeed in NATO's DIANA challenge and enter the defence market


Together with partners, VTT will spar Finnish start-ups and SMEs to help them succeed in NATO’s DIANA challenge. The reward is an accelerator programme to boost access to defence markets and financial support. VTT is leading the first DIANA accelerator to be launched in Finland with its partners, and is hosting one of the DIANA test centres.

NATO’s DIANA programme (Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic) is for start-ups and SMEs that want to develop so-called dual-use technology products and services for both defence and civilian markets. DIANA will announce the technology themes of the challenge in May and will select the companies that will be admitted to the accelerators through the challenge.

“By providing support to the DIANA challenge, we want to promote the opportunities for Finnish companies to enter the defence market with their products and services. Finland has much potential as we have a high level of development in digital technologies. The defence market is notoriously difficult to penetrate, but the DIANA programme offers an excellent way to do so,” says Sauli Eloranta, Vice President, Defence at VTT.

He believes that the second edition of the challenge will be more attractive and better known to Finnish start-ups and SMEs than the previous one. For the first time, concrete support for the application process will be available from Finland. 

Company selected in the DIANA challenge to also receive financial support

The challenge has five different technological themes for which new solutions are being sought. The application period will run from June to July and end in August. In September, some of the applicant companies will be invited to pitch their proposals and, in October, DIANA will select the final companies for the accelerator programme. The selected companies will receive free six-month membership of the accelerator programme and a grant of €100 000. Some companies that complete the programme will be eligible for a second 6-month company-specific coaching programme and an additional €300 000 grant.

In sparring for the challenge organised by VTT and partners, companies will receive practical coaching and training in the elimination process. The sparring will start with an information session in May and continue in the autumn with two support clinics.

“We will teach companies how to succeed in the different stages of the challenge, from writing the application to coaching the pitches that they make to Diana. At the first information session, encouragement will be given by the Finnish company GIM Robotics, which succeeded last year and was able to join the DIANA accelerator in Tallinn,” says Eloranta.

At the application stage, a company can indicate which accelerator in a NATO country it would like to use. However, it is ultimately up to DIANA to decide which accelerator the selected companies will go to. The next accelerator programmes will start in early 2025. VTT will support the application process for all domestic companies, regardless of their accelerator ambition.

VTT is setting up a DIANA accelerator in Otaniemi, Espoo, in collaboration with Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. In addition to the accelerator, two test centres will be established in Finland, one of which will be mainly located at VTT's Otaniemi site, and the other in Oulu as a collaboration between the University of Oulu and VTT.

The accelerator will focus on future communication and quantum technologies, but companies can also come to the accelerator under any other theme. The accelerator will also provide extensive and varied training on how to develop business opportunities in the defence sector.

Together with Business Finland and several other stakeholders, VTT is organising an information session for companies interested in the challenge on 24 May. On 15 August, a company-specific support clinic will be organised for companies participating in the challenge, where concrete guidance will be given and rehearsals for pitches made. A coaching session will be organised on 12 September for the companies that have made it through to the next stage. In addition to VTT, Business Finland, Tesi, FiBAN, DDE (Digital Defence Ecosystem) and Define will also spar with the companies.

For more information about the training, visit the Business Finland website.
For more information about DIANA, visit VTT’s website.
Press release about DIANA accelerator and test centres.

DIANA in brief

  • NATO established DIANA to help develop dual-use technologies that meet security and defence challenges. DIANA supports companies working on solutions in key sectors identified by NATO member states.
  • To meet the needs of a changing world, NATO is identifying, developing and deploying emerging and disruptive dual-use technologies.
  • DIANA is NATO's innovation accelerator, bringing together innovators from member states to support NATO's technological leadership, defend its one billion citizens and maintain peace and security.
  • DIANA provides companies with training, funding, commercial advice, opportunities for testing and access to defence expertise and investors. Participating companies are developing dual-use technologies to address major defence and resilience challenges.

For more information about the training, visit the Business Finland website.
For more information about DIANA, visit VTT’s website.
Press release about DIANA accelerator and test centres.


Further information:

VTT: Sauli Eloranta, Vice President, Defence at VTT
[email protected], tel. +358 40 580 8664

Sauli Eloranta
Sauli Eloranta
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