The UK is partnering with Estonia to host the European HQ of a defence innovation programme for NATO allies.
The programme is called DIANA – Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – and it will accelerate, test, evaluate and validate new technologies, addressing critical defence challenges and contributing to alliance deterrence.
Announced by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, DIANA will see transatlantic co-operation on technologies, helping NATO work more closely with industry and academia.
The UK's accelerator will be twinned with a new accelerator in Tallinn, Estonia, to encourage the sharing of expertise, explore the use of virtual sites to trial vehicles, including autonomous ones, and test cyber innovations.
What hosts, UK and Estonia will do
As hosts, the UK and Estonia will support start-up companies with funding, guidance and business expertise through twinned accelerator networks.
They will offer the use of 'deep tech' test centres to assess technological solutions to military problems, utilising the Defence BattleLab.
The hosts will also work with NATO to develop a virtual marketplace to connect start-ups with trusted investors, as well as a rapid acquisition service to connect products to buyers at pace.
The Defence Secretary called the UK and Estonia "two of the most innovative countries in NATO" and said he believes the "hosting of DIANA will harness that innovation for the benefit of all Allies tackling future military threats".
Ben Wallace added that the UK is an "ideal place to develop the next generation of military technologies", due to its "vibrant tech community".
He added that "Estonia was the natural partner for the UK given its international leadership in cyber, autonomy and AI, and our close partnership forged through the Enhanced Forward Presence".
Watch: UK military in Estonia, as part of its ongoing commitment to support the country's military.
Ranked in the world's top 10 innovative universities, Imperial College London will bring together academia, industry and government by hosting the headquarters of DIANA and a DIANA Accelerator at the Innovation Hub (IHUB) in the White City Innovation District.
Estonian Defence Minister Kalle Laanet said: "The goal of DIANA is to support deep technologies companies that contribute to defence.
"It will bring together talented innovators with new technologies end-users in the area of defence.
"We are very glad to see that the good co-operation we have with the UK will expand even further and also encompass our universities and private sector more," he added.
According to the MOD, DIANA is essential to delivering the NATO 2030 vision and ensuring that the alliance develops the military capabilities needed to deter and defend against existing and future threats.
Kalle Laanet added: "Good relations with allies is a cornerstone of Estonian defence policy, and a successful start to this programme for us is a sign that this cornerstone is strong."
The UK and Estonia DIANA HQ is expected to be operational from July 2022.