is to help and encourage nations to adopt these new & innovative areas of technology and make t

Author : houseaso112
Publish Date : 2021-01-09 10:29:04


is to help and encourage nations to adopt these new & innovative areas of technology and make t

Sec. General’s Advisory Group on E&D Technologies meets with NATO’s Innovation Board. (NATO News)
As I understand things, NATO is something of a cross between the DoD and the State Department, which means that diplomacy and policy play a key role in NATO initiatives. What are some of the most important policy areas that you’re working to implement, and how do you work with various NATO member countries to implement them uniformly?
Let me frame this by saying that right now the Alliance is in a technological adoption race, which is subtly different than a technological development race. In terms of emerging innovative technologies, our goal right now is focused on trying to adopt them as quickly as and uniformly as possible in a manner that reflects the values of the Alliance and the principles of responsible use.


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NATO is very much a network type of organization where nations can plugin and come together, and we can add disproportionate value in areas like creating standards for interoperability and helping allies ensure that innovative technologies can work together. By developing the right sorts of policies, we can help guide the smooth use of these technologies across the Alliance.
In today’s world, many of the technologies we’re looking at are already in use in the commercial sector — such as AI algorithms which many of us use when we shop on Amazon or watch Netflix. These algorithms are always running in the background, and society is becoming accustomed to them, so one of our goals is to ensure that our military is also able to leverage these sorts of technologies in a responsible way that reflects the values of the Alliance.
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Deep Learning can be used to identify planes, vehicles and buildings within images. (NATO)
One of the challenges you’ve described is the distribution of new processes & technologies between member nations avoid creating a two-tier alliance of “haves” and “have nots” that reduces interoperability. Has that been an issue in the past, and are there any examples of that you can share?
Yes. I mean, it’s never going to be perfect. It’s always going to be a little messy when you’ve got 30 countries involved. Let’s put some numbers around this — the collective defense budgets of the allied nations are around a trillion dollars annually, and they’re tasked with the protection of a billion people across the territories of the Alliance.
It’s unrealistic to expect that everyone’s going to be able to move in formation when it comes to these new technologies, but our job is to help and encourage nations to adopt these new & innovative areas of technology and make them as interoperable as possible, not only with other allies where appropriate, but also with legacy equipment.
Legacy interoperability is easy to overlook, but it’s a big consideration when you’re investing in new technologies that need to work alongside traditional hard power assets such as jets, tanks, ships, submarines, etc. Making sure that these legacy systems can interact with new technologies is a significant challenge, and trying to minimize what we call the “interoperability stretch” is something we’re working quite hard to address.
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Improving interoperability between Allied systems is an ongoing NATO concern. (NATO)
Now, back on September 1st last year, you wrote an article in the NATO Review entitled “Building a resilient innovation pipeline for the Alliance”, where you talked about leveraging diversity and the comparative advantage of the alliance to build an innovation pipeline to maintain our technological edge. Can you tell me a bit about this concept?
When I was writing that article, I looked at the 30 countries in the NATO Alliance, which are filled with a wonderful array of talented individuals, amazing universities, huge flows of capital, and all of the ingredients you need for a persistent pipeline of innovation design. This is our primary competitive advantage, and it’s the result of open, democratic governance across the Alliance.
Not only does the overall Alliance offer a huge competitive advantage in terms of innovation, but there are also comparative advantages that each of the various NATO nations offer in different areas of innovation as well.
The question is how we can take advantage of the development ecosystems that cluster in certain countries and then stitch them together to benefit not only our shared Allied national defense and security needs but also benefit society in general as well. This kind of strategy should be baked into national industrial policies, while serving as a signpost to indicate where allies should be investing both fiscally and educationally.
If we focus on reinforcing the innovative efforts already underway in the Alliance, it not only benefits the public sector but it naturally supports the growth of dual-use capabilities that benefit the private sector as well. In terms of defense, this is a total reversal of what we saw in the 20th century, where it was the government driving forward technological breakthroughs such as touch screens, GPS, the internet, and so forth.
Yesterday, innovation was publicly funded, but that structure for innovation has flipped, and today innovation development is mainly privately funded. Thus, we need to think about not only the comparative advantages that each member nation can bring to our innovation pipeline, but also we need to think about how this benefits both the public & private sectors from a dual-use perspective. This raises a lot of big questions that we need to consider. It’s very macro, and I recognize that. However, there’s a huge opportunity that having a transatlantic Alliance like NATO brings to this area.
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NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană discusses building a culture of innovation. (NATO Review)
In terms of building this pipeline, you’ve said that today’s era is unique because of the rate of technology development in the private sector, and that building an innovation pipeline needs to involve academia, government & and an array of private-sector concerns such as banks, investors, universities, tech startups, and venture capitalists. How do you envision something like this coming together?
It’s not very realistic to try and create a comprehensive plan when you’re dealing with 30 countries and all of the various universities, financial institutions, accelerators, and start-ups they contain. What is realistic is to start doing specific projects within those communities of innovation — and from a NATO perspective, this helps to signpost areas of interest for further innovation.
The notion of guiding innovation is something that’s already established on a national level, and a good example of this is the In-Q-Tel venture capital fund in the United States, originally spun out from Central Intelligence Agency in 1999.
In itself, In-Q-Tel is one of many venture capital funds, and not even that impressive when you look at it in relative terms. However, what makes In-Q-Tel special is the fact that they’re able to signal need through where they put their investments, which starts to drive a whole series of innovative activities by private investors who crowd in with In-Q-Tel on new areas of technology investment which otherwise may not have occurred.
In-Q-Tel plays a great role in this ecosystem of academia, the private sector, and government, where despite being a small government venture capital fund, it’s able to signpost to the rest of the actors in that ecosystem where there is future market potential. Similar things are happening in France with the Defense Innovation Fund, in the UK with the National Security Strategic Fund, and in Estonia with the Centre for Defence Investment.
National governments are already involved in market signalling for dual-use technologies, and this is something NATO can make a difference with as well — and help scale up new areas of innovation across 30 potential markets. So for entrepreneurs, the fact that you might be competitive across 30 markets simultaneously should make the endeavor much more attractive.
So, to answer your question succinctly, I don’t think it’s realistic to try and map out innovation on a granular level and plan it line by line. However, creating a community and an ecosystem with clear signals as to where the Alliance wishes to go will create a crowding-in effect for both entrepreneurs and investors alike that will generate strong market opportunities for innovative dual-use capabilities.
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