NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

NATO Innovation Challenge

September 28, 2022

NATO Innovation Challenge


Innovation Challenge Winners to be announced in Romania by SACT in October

The Innovation Challenge brings together academics, researchers, and start-ups to solve complex challenges that NATO faces today and in the future.

This year’s Challenge, co-organised by Allied Command Transformation and NCIA and hosted by the Romanian Ministry of Defence, focused on resilience and data security in a contested environment. The finale will take place in Romania on October 12th, 2022.

Under the leadership of SACT General Philippe Lavigne, ACT has focused on digital transformation and innovation. Considering the Russian invasion of Ukraine and increased antagonism globally, this fall’s Innovation Challenge was tailored to incorporate elements of resilience and digital security.

This year’s challenge is all about looking ahead at the next challenge NATO will face,” said SACT. “Resilience and reconstruction are always going to be part of what NATO does and seeing into the future to identify innovative solutions is what we are focused on.

The NATO Innovation Challenge, initiated in 2017, is a brainstorming process aimed at resolving common Alliance and Partner Nation operational challenges efficiently and cost-effectively. The Challenge gives priority access to non-traditional innovators, such as individual developers, start-ups, and academia. It also expands and deepens Alliance networks and collaboration with industry and academia, especially through the NATO Innovation Network. The NATO Innovation Network strives to develop a shared culture of innovation among NATO Nations and inspire transformation.

This year’s edition will feature ten finalists who have created solutions to the hypothetical scenario laid out in the Challenge. The winners will have an opportunity to further develop their solutions in collaboration with NATO and its partners across the Alliance.

As the global security and technological environment and NATO’s own strategies continue to evolve, NATO’s data management, collection, and security are at the forefront of the Alliance. This edition of the NATO Innovation Challenge, through a fictitious scenario related to current global events, calls for creative tools and strategies for securing and managing data in a contested environment. A contested atmosphere may include one or more antagonistic forces seeking to disrupt Allied data usage and flows. In past reconstruction efforts in the Balkans and Iraq, data management was a relevant concern. Although hypothetical, this scenario is playing out in the real world and is likely to become increasingly relevant to the Alliance.

In light of increasingly antagonistic Alliance adversaries data management and security have continued to be vital pieces of the security puzzle. Military and commercial sectors are highly interconnected for transport, communications, and even basic supplies such as food and water. Establishing, maintaining, and deploying resilient systems is key to both civil preparedness and military capacity. This challenge broadly focused on resilience from a whole-of-society perspective, meaning that it combines civilian, economic, commercial, and military factors. Within the scenario the Challenge outlines, the Alliance’s ability to sustain cyber-attacks, secure data in a contested environment to accomplish the mission were one of the primary objectives. Resources from local or national industry, partner militaries, and civil society could be leveraged. The Challenge also emphasises the importance of planned data collection, secure data sharing, and effective data management during the crisis.

In the new Strategic Concept, NATO Allies have stated their commitment to digital transformation including the management of data in contested environments. As authoritarian powers become more assertive and aim to shift the global balance of power in their favour and undermine our values and interests, the digital apparatus used by Allies is likely to come under growing strain. A test for which NATO and its partners must be ready. The Innovation Challenge supports efforts to meet the call for next-decade Alliance capabilities and will be highlighting its work during the October event.

During the Innovation Challenge Finale on October 12th, HQ SACT will present three levels of monetary awards for the top three winners; the winner will receive $5,000 USD, the second place winner will receive $2,500 USD, and the third place winner will receive $1,000 USD. Winning submissions could support the development of future NATO concepts, doctrine, standards, requirements, capability development, and will get stage-time at NATO-wide events in the future.

In addition to monetary prizes, winners will be awarded registration waivers for admission to the NATO Edge, the flagship event of NATO NCI Agency on October 25-27 at Lotto Mons Expo in Belgium.