by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at NATO's first annual Data and AI Leaders’ Conference

  • 08 Nov. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Nov. 2022 17:33

(As delivered)

Thank you James, you used me as an excuse to shorten your remarks. Good morning everyone [inaudible], dear colleagues from ESC. I also like to thank our Belgian Allies and guests for helping us. And indeed, I have not one but two councils to chair today on the behalf of the Secretary General, but from him and myself, our best regards to this first event, which I know will not be the last. And I would like to thank -to all of you from across allied nations, from the NATO enterprise industry, for joining us for the first annual data in AI Leaders Conference.

I chair the innovation board in NATO and the Secretary General when he hired me, he told me, Mircea, I want you to be the champion of innovation across the Alliance. Sounds nice. But it's demanding and evolving, and exceptionally relevant to everything we do. So from the phone in your pocket, to the fitness tracker on our wrist, technologies are all over us.

And they are developing at an unprecedented pace.

Emerging technologies like AI, big data and autonomy are making a revolution in the way we live and work. They can help tackle some of the world's most intractable problems, from combating climate change, to diagnosing disease, but also changing the ways wars are waged.

And one, technology is changing our very definition of security, and who is responsible for ensuring it.

And for NATO, this is bread and butter.

In 2024, we'll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of our great alliance. And the effort -to you, all of us, all of you, we're making together is just to continue to keep this alliance relevant and fit for purpose, also in our most complicated times of geopolitics in human history.
So your work is immensely important for the enduring success of our alliance.
And we see also the very vivid and brutal and tragic example of Ukraine. And of course, we are looking every day on the maps a little bit here, a little bit there. But behind this, there's a massive lesson learned exercise which is happening under all our eyes, and we are very vigilant at looking into this.

We're looking how the private sector, and intelligence, and how governments and citizens are helping Ukraine to stay afloat and eventually prevail.
And I think one of the most vivid and illustrative things that we do.
We are, I'll be chairing the NAC, preparing the NATO summit in Vilnius of July in next year. You remember the very successful Madrid summit that we had.
And we are now, James alluded to the fact that the last Defence Ministerial meeting, I think that 80% of the documents endorsed by our defence ministers, were related to your work, or related to technology.

Of course, there's lots of deterrence and defence and lots of other things. But this is the bulk of the issue that needs to be addressed.
And of course, helping the brave Ukrainian people and armed forces is something we'll continue to do, including in learning from them, and together with them, and continue to teach them how to use cutting edge technology, not only to survive this war and win this war, but to really transform a nation into a prosperous, modern and democratic nation in the future.

I'm also trying to also say something that we all know.
And for the ones in Europe, this is probably the first time in five centuries, and for our North Atlantic allies and friends, is probably the first time since the Second World War, when our technological edge is really contested by nations, starting with China, that are now in the verge of competing directly with our allies, with our nations, with our democratic countries for supremacy in some of the key technologies that will neighbor our societies, our economies and our armed forces to compete in the future, the first time in five centuries, the first times, first time in decades.

And if you read a little bit of what President Xi said in his long speech at the party congress -Communist Party Congress, just two weeks back, you will see how much emphasis has put in making sure that they are -will be challenging, and not only challenging our technological edge. They're challenging the very nature of our societies. Because the same technology can be used to work, to have more democracy and more transparency, and the same technology can and will be used. And this is also not only the issue of being able to continue to compete for technological edge, but it's also what kind of world do we leave to our kids and grandkids. So what we do today will be defining the World of Tomorrow, we have absolutely no time to lose. There's absolutely no portion of our vast innovation ecosystem across the Alliance and our partners not to be harnessed. We just cannot do business as usual. This is a moment of transformation in world affairs like we've never had before.

And technology is basically the super turbocharger of these changes.
And our competitors, and our adversaries will be not sitting idle, and just wait for the Democratic west to continue to prevail.
So this is in fact, the fundamental job we have to do.
And you're in the forefront of this, you in your jobs in national governments across the NATO enterprise, in industry. And the way in which we'll be defining in NATO, James alluded to the AI and ethical use of AI. Next year, we'll be doing more on biotechnology, on autonomy. With our Chief Scientist, we are doing horizon scanning, and we're looking already to metamaterials and nano technologies. So this is one of the most intense competitions for the way in which the world will be shaped like we have we've ever had. And this is something I know we'll be up to the task.

Let me also say, just one word about the two new kids in town. I'm very proud of that. I'm very grateful to all the nations and also to my colleagues, from both the civilian and military, part of the house without our military colleagues we'll not be in position to do what we're doing. The first thing that our leaders in Madrid, and our defence ministers approved the digital transformation of NATO. That sounds easy. But it's not. And you know this better than any one of us. So making sure that we have NATO fit for purpose, being able to exercise and fight together.
And using big data, NAI and sensors, multidomain, everything you need is something which is a massive endeavour.
And for the ones coming from nations from Allied nations, I encourage you to make even better use of NATO as a platform. For standardization, of course, we cannot tell nations what to do or not to do. But [inaudible] in NATO develops a standard, you remember the standards, the standards in NATO, they are gold standards, on military issues and security issues around the world.

So I'm encouraging you to be with us and shape the way in which also the ethical and the normative part of new technologies will be shaped when it comes to defence.
And this is something which is a very important endeavour for all of us.

And last point for my side, before I go to prepare our next steps in terms of the Alliance, DIANA, the innovation fund.
DIANA is the Defence Innovation Accelerator for North Atlantic.
And I remember James working on these ideas and he goes I think for and colleagues from [inaudible] for some time. I have to say, I was so proud to see our leaders in Madrid endorsing the first across the Alliance, innovation ecosystems, where the triple helix between government, private sector and academia, are finally put to work together, not as a national thing.
Because if nations do that if you try to put together national government to the industry and academia.
But as an alliance, we've never done that before. And the success of DIANA which is now getting close to hiring its governance structures will have their headquarters at Imperial College in London, and I think our UK and Estonian allies for co-hosting that, I thank our Canadian colleagues for offering to host the North Atlantic HQ for DIANA.

And now I think roughly most of the allies have offered test centres, accelerators, and I'm encouraging you in your capacity to do this when you go back to your capitals or to your industries. DIANA is an exceptionally interesting and promising endeavour of this alliance.
And I want also the smaller allies that don't have the same depth of venture capital markets, not the same endowment of universities.
But there is talent there is brains all over, small, medium or big size allies.
DIANA is about making sure that we'll continue to innovate together, that we harness the whole talent across the enterprise.
And across the alliance with Sweden and Finland joining us, I'm convinced very soon, we'll have 32 allies, the best universities, the smartest people, free societies, open societies, let's put them to work, and find a way to out compete and outsmart the guys who are not our friends.

The second thing, and I will close here, when it comes to money, I have to cut it short. And my wife would kill me when she is about the savings and family money.
We also managed to do something which quite interesting. I'm very proud that this alliance is changing, we are changing the way we do work.
And this is the Innovation Fund in NATO it’s not huge it's a 1 billion Euro Innovation Fund is the first sovereign multinational fund invented ever. The first ever sovereign multinational fund invented ever, when allies are willing to put a little bit of money is not a huge, huge amount of money.
And just to use NATO as a small part, as a springboard for start-ups, and smart fresh ideas for dual use technologies coming from all the alliances.
Of course, this is not competing with the venture capital funds.
But imagine a start-up from whatever country you can choose.
And coming to use our test centres or accelerators in DIANA have a promising technology, get a bit of money from NATO from the innovation fund, get a golden standard of approval from NATO as trusted capital.
And then they can go to the real capital markets and real scale it up.

So this unique combination between DIANA Innovation Fund is something that is telling you that yes, Stoltenberg, when he told me to be the champion of innovation, he didn't lose that much faith in myself and our teams to deliver.
That's quite creative. And you know, NATO that, sometimes is a massive organization. And we have our culture and our procedures, we fully respect that. This is something which is good, plus [inaudible] is about agility.
All of you are struggling with the idea of procurement and how to make sure that we acquire, from private sector mostly, the best technologies for the best purpose in the best ways.

Please help us with the lessons learned from your national or business capacity for us to do a better job we'll not be able to really fulfil the whole potential of our great alliance, if we're not also more agile, and more able to work on this exceptionally accelerated pace of technological transformation.
This is mainly things that I'm expecting from this meeting as well. [...]

So best of luck, first time ever.
And this is just the first for many, many, many more to come.

Good luck.
We're counting on all of you.
Thank you