A Lithuanian defense innovation showcase on the eve of the NATO Summit highlights how technology is changing the nature of warfighting
The newly appointed Managing Director of the NATO Innovation Fund encouraged geographically smaller NATO members to become early adopters of and act as leaders in promoting innovative technologies
Lithuanian VC funds collected $55M in dry powder for dual-use investments
Solutions showcased include electronic warfare, long-range initiators, anti-drone solutions, free space optical communication, and non-jammable UAVs
July 10, 2023 — Vilnius, Lithuania.
NATO’s Focus on Emerging Disruptive Technologies
Presenting a glimpse into the forefront of Lithuanian defense innovations deployed in Ukraine, an event organized on the eve of the NATO Summit in Vilnius provided a practical showcase of how emerging technologies are changing the nature of warfighting, and set the groundwork for closer intra-NATO collaboration on emerging disruptive technologies.
During a welcome speech, Greta Tučkutė, Vice Minister of Defence of the Republic of Lithuania, highlighted lessons that need to be learned from Ukraine, where defense innovations are currently tested: “It is highly important to have high-quality and timely products in place for when we need them. Collaboration is important to understand what kind of product is expected from the government, and what kind of product can be used by armed forces. The NATO Summit is a crucial moment for our country, and an opportunity to create models to boost defense investment and production while facilitating innovation collaboration among members.”
During the inaugural public appearance, the newly appointed Managing Director of €1bn NATO Innovation Fund (NIF), Andrea Traversone, emphasized the role that innovation plays within NATO: “Innovation in emerging and disruptive technologies must be responsible and led by fundamental principles: safety, freedom, and human empowerment. All of which are synonymous with NATO’s democratic values and the NIF's mission.”
Mr. Traversone also encouraged smaller nations to become early adopters of emerging disruptive technologies, highlighting their potential role as leaders in driving the innovation agenda and promoting wider technological adoption within the alliance.
"The Vilnius Summit holds immense importance for defense innovation, particularly with the operationalization of NATO's pioneering innovation incentivization mechanisms—the NATO Innovation Fund and NATO's Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA). We were delighted to welcome the Managing Directors of both institutions to our event, fostering connections with the Lithuanian VC and technology ecosystem and paving the way for future collaborations," stated Viktorija Trimbel, Managing Director of CoInvest Capital and co-host of the event.
Lithuania has garnered attention in both geopolitical and innovation realms in recent years. “Venture Capital funds in Lithuania play a particular role in both innovation and geopolitical domains. We focus on DeepTech (which encompasses Dual-Use tech), because we appreciate how complex the innovation commercialization journey is - starting with foundational R&D and finding applied use cases are two equally important tasks. Especially when working with startups aiming to navigate the dual-use sector, we need to help them by taking an activist role in hand-holding and helping these innovations reach end-users,” argued Andrius Milinavičius, Managing Partner of Baltic Sandbox Ventures.
From the Lithuanian labs to the Ukrainian frontlines
Portable electronic warfare anti-drone systems that help Ukrainians in the trenches counter drone swarms; multi-spectral targeting solutions and long-range initiators that help special operations forces conduct complex missions, and anti-jam and anti-spoof UAV systems that effectively operate in denied environments are among prominent solutions developed by Lithuanian SMEs.
“War in Ukraine is starkly demonstrating the imperative for innovation adoption, which can only happen when the private sector, governments, and academia collaborate and access to capital is ensured across the wider spectrum of technology development.” — Giedrimas Jeglinskas, Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, former Assistant General Secretary at NATO
"These emerging tech solutions not only contribute to Ukrainian forces in their ongoing counter-offensive but also provide a new model for warfare that can benefit all NATO members. The showcased case studies demonstrate the rapid iteration, deployment, and closer international collaboration that defines the Lithuanian tech and VC ecosystem on the sidelines of the NATO Summit. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Lithuanian VC investments in dual-use and defense solutions totaled zero. In less than two years, we now have $55M of dry powder ready to be deployed into promising Lithuanian startups, developing emerging disruptive technologies. Some of them are already proving the value of their tech on the frontlines,” affirmed Dominykas Milašius, Venture Partner at Baltic Sandbox Ventures.
In her opening statement at the event, Erika Kuročkina, Vice Minister of Economy & Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania, stated, "A vast expanse of opportunities lies ahead in diverse sectors such as aerospace, AI, and photonics. Our defense industry is open and collaborative, with a strong focus on cutting-edge technologies. We aim to drive economic growth through these technological advancements, even as we strengthen security and provide assistance to Ukraine."
Lessons for the future
Deeph Chana, the CEO of NATO’s DIANA, described a future roadmap for technological talent attraction: “I see talent as highly contested in the future. The type of technologists we want to attract are not what we have currently proliferated - but we want to see them inside the national defense systems.”
Mr. Edward Ebbern, Founder of Defence BattleLab, underscored the role of business and academia “Government will be very bad in predicting the future. People who create the future are from business and academia. Their key focus is on solving problems and monetizing those solutions. Ministries of Defence thus need to become better in articulating problems, and getting those problems closer to problem solvers.”
Describing innovative models for delivering innovation to the frontlines, Jonas Öhman, Founder of Blue/Yellow For Ukraine said "During a hybrid war, we need a hybrid approach and solutions. The concept of Support Hybrid Warfare means that the NGO arranges cooperation involving government entities, businesses, civil society, and military units. The goal is to provide support accurately and quickly to military units, often upon requests direct from the battlefield. It also allows for deployment of new and untested systems to the frontline, for immediate feedback and necessary improvements.”
Info for editors:
Organized by Lithuania's Venture Capital funds authorized for dual-use investments (CoInvest Capital, Baltic Sandbox Ventures, Scalewolf VC), this event underscores the growing significance of emerging technologies in modern warfare and seeks to foster closer collaboration and more impactful innovation within both the national and NATO-wide ecosystems for more robust collective defense and deterrence of the Alliance. More information can be found https://www.investingfordefense.com/
About Coinvest Capital
"Coinvest Capital is an early-stage venture capital fund established by INVEGA, using public funds from the EU and the budget of the Republic of Lithuania, investing together with business angels and other venture capital funds in young promising Lithuanian companies. The fund's portfolio now includes 27 start-up companies. Out of the fund's capital of 25.5 million euros, the available capital for new investments amounts to 15 million euros. https://www.coinvest.lt/.
Please contact email@example.com for more information.
About Baltic Sandbox Ventures
Baltic Sandbox Ventures is a €15.5M venture capital fund and accelerator, on a mission to help DeepTech founders in the Baltics navigate their journey to commercialising innovation. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.