by NATO Deputy Secretary General at InnovX-BCR DemoDay
Thank you, Ionut and I know that the world will be in good hands with all of you. Our job is to make sure that peace and stability and security will be the foundation of everything we’ll do and everything you’ll do in your careers and in your successful lives. But thank you so much for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you at the InnovX-BCR DemoDay. And the idea to promote innovation, entrepreneurship in Romania and the region is just a fantastic one. A few words about NATO and what we do, as we speak. NATO is a defensive Alliance whose primary responsibility is to protect 1 billion citizens in Europe and North America. 30 countries today, possibly more in the near future. We have done this successfully for over 70 years by staying strong militarily and united politically, and by changing as the world around us changes - and now is changing at fantastic speed. This is the recipe of success. This is how we manage to deter any aggression, defend our people, our democratic values, prevent conflict, and allow people like you to have ideas, to prosper and to fulfil their lives and to fulfil their dreams. But central to NATO’s success is also our ability to maintain our technological edge. From the first Industrial Revolution to today’s one, innovation and entrepreneurship have always been central to global supremacy, to prosperity, peace and stability. With our open societies and thriving private sector, Allied nations enjoy an important competitive edge. 70% of the world’s most innovative cities are within Allied territory. 80% of all Nobel Prizes have gone to NATO’s citizens. And as an Alliance, our private sector invests the vast majority of global venture capital into our innovative companies. Today, however, our edge is being aggressively challenged by authoritarian regimes that do not share our values or abide by the same rules. Russia has invested heavily in new technologies, from hypersonic missiles to cyber capabilities and massive disinformation campaigns. Malicious cyber and hybrid activities are a common feature of a more contested world in peacetime, in crisis and in conflict. We have seen attacks on our own governments, on our companies, on our democratic processes and persistent propaganda campaigns that seek to undermine us and the trust amongst us. And we see today how Moscow is employing disinformation and cyber-attacks to support its horrific war in Ukraine. For the first time, China has joined Russia in openly challenging the global architecture of security and norms: calling for an end to NATO enlargement, challenging core principles for our security – namely the right of every nation to choose its own path – and amplifying dangerous disinformation. At the same time, China has engaged in its own massive military modernisation. Beijing’s stated ambition is to have the most technologically advanced armed forces in the world by 2050, and to become a global leader in artificial intelligence by the end of this decade. It is investing heavily in these ambitions with the second-largest defence budget in the world, but with little regard for international law or human rights. So, our world is changing rapidly and we must adapt even more rapidly to keep our people and our democratic values safe. This is exactly what we do in NATO. I chair the innovation body in NATO, and it is my role to drive innovation across the Alliance. In 2019, Allies agreed a roadmap on key emerging and disruptive technologies, which are fundamentally changing the nature of our security and war, but also our economies and societies. This roadmap would help us speed up implementation, protect our industries from potential adversaries, and develop common ethical standards. We have already launched NATO’s first ever strategies on big data, on artificial intelligence, focussing on principles for responsible use. As your notes have mentioned at the beginning, we have also launched DIANA, NATO’s new Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, to bring together the triple helix of governments, public sector, academia and private sector – you entrepreneurs – to design cutting edge solutions to the security challenges we face. With headquarters in Europe and North America, DIANA will connect entrepreneurs like you with defence practitioners and markets and business potential all across our Alliance. Romania will host two DIANA test centres, the INCAS, the National Institute for Aerospace Research, focussing on hypersonic technologies, and the International Centre of Excellence on Artificial Intelligence at the University Politehnica of Bucharest, also my alma mater. Allied innovators will come to these two institutions in Romania to test their solutions in these fields, and these are part of a much larger network of over 50 centres in more than 20 Allied countries, to which Romanian innovators themselves will have access to the rest of the Alliance. We are also setting, like Ionut has been mentioning, a billion-euro NATO Innovation Fund. This is not the idea to compete with venture capital. This is not the point. But the point of this fund is to provide trusted capital to start-ups developing advanced dual-use technologies that would not otherwise come to market. And this is also a way to accompany the young start-ups, the young entrepreneurs to cross in better condition the Death Valley between an idea and maturity on the markets. We see our Innovation Fund as a bridge between your ideas and your success for developing technologies that will be useful for defence, for security and, in general, for investors. So this is pretty exciting stuff and I hope that the broad innovation ecosystem represented here today will get on board with our efforts. So DIANA and the Innovation Fund should be fully operational next year, so watch this space. All the information is, of course, on our NATO website and we look forward to seeing many of the young entrepreneurs coming to us and using our facilities and using our springboard for smart, fresh ideas. So thank you again for inviting me here today. In the next few hours we’ll start NATO Ministers of Defence meeting, we’ll discuss also things related to your subject. And just in less than two weeks in Madrid, at the NATO Summit, DIANA and the Innovation Fund will get the final go ahead by our leaders. This is, in fact, what we do, to help us keeping technological progress, to maintain our technological edge, to keep our societies open, free and prosperous, and to allow your generation to thrive in a world that is changing. But we are confident that with our values and our unity we’ll prevail. So good luck. That’s a great initiative. And Ionut, like always, thank you so much for your creative mind and your steady leadership.