Keynote speech

by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the Defence Disrupted conference

  • 26 May. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 26 May. 2022 10:22

(As delivered)

Thank you, Daniel. And thank you, Alexander. I'm so very happy to join you once again, at this year's Defence Disrupted conference. This is an excellent opportunity for the defence sector, especially the start-up community to get together and drive forward our defence and deterrence. We meet at a pivotal time for Europe security. Russia's brutal war in Ukraine has underlined to all of us just how fragile peace and freedom can be, and the devastating consequences of war.

NATO exists to prevent war, to protect our nations, our people, and our democratic values through strong deterrence and defence. This has been our mission and our privilege for more than 70 years. From the jet age to the information age, innovation and technology have always been central to that mission. We have been able to maintain peace and security in part thanks to the technological edge we have had over our rivals.

But today, that edge is being challenged by nations that do not share our values, like Russia, and China. So in the last decade or so, we have seen Russia invest vast sums into technologies from hypersonic missiles, to cyber weapons and disinformation capabilities. We have seen cyberattacks on our governments and companies, interference in our elections, propaganda campaigns to undermine us. And now it has invaded Ukraine, a peaceful country, simply because it dared to seek its own path in the world. China's ambition is to have the most technologically advanced armed forces in the world by 2050. And to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by the end of this decade, it is investing heavily to achieve that ambition. 

But we in the political West still have a unique advantage. Our companies and universities operate in free and open societies. Our most creative and innovative minds are able to express themselves freely, to challenge to think, in radical new directions without the threat of reprisals. Another big advantage of ours is our unity. We are an alliance on 30 nations probably more united not only by shared threats and challenges, but by shared values, the freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Together, we are strong. With so many nations, interoperability, our ability to work together in peace or in war is essential to a credible collective defence. Two ships may sail side by side, but if their systems cannot communicate, if they cannot operate as part of a larger whole, they may well as well be in different oceans. This is why NATO is such a vital platform for technology and innovation. We bring together allies as we develop new platforms and systems. 

As Chair of the NATO Innovation Board, It is my role to drive innovation across the Alliance. In 2019 allies agreed a roadmap on emerging and disruptive technologies, which are fundamentally changing the nature of security and war. This will help us speed implementation, protect our industries from potential adversaries and develop very important common ethical standards. We have some of the most advanced technologies in the world. And we are taking steps to continually push further.

That is one of the reasons why we have launched DIANA, the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic to identify and develop the next generation of technologies. Last month, I visited what will be DIANA's new European headquarters. It will not be on a military base hidden from the world. It will be here in London at Imperial College. It will work with dozens of test centres and accelerator sites all across Europe and North America.

Bringing together academia, start-ups and governments in the triple helix to design cutting edge solutions to the security challenge we face. We're also setting up a multinational NATO innovation fund to provide secure funding for start-ups developing cutting edge dual use technologies, and I hope that the audience will be many of the customers of this new fund. 

I encourage you all to get involved to be part of pushing the boundaries and maintaining our security for generations to come. DIANA and the innovation fund should be fully operational next year. So watch this space. It is vital that the open democratic nations of the world work together to ensure our values remain at the heart of our technological future. This is how we will not only maintain our technological edge, but also shape the future, the new rules and norms of global technology.

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine, with war once more in Europe, our world has profoundly changed. But NATO Allies stand united and strong, protecting 1 billion people across Europe and North America. It is up to all of us to play our part in maintaining security and building a better, safer, world for future generations. We are in this together. Thank you so much. I look forward to working with you and with Defence Disrupted in the future. I wish you all the best in a very successful conference. And we are privileged to be part of the broad innovation ecosystem across our great Alliance. Good luck.