NATO has committed to investing €1 billion over 15 years in start-ups and other venture capital funds that develop emerging dual-use technologies with both military and civil. (PA)
Greece’s National Scientific Research Center Demokritos is preparing to welcome high-tech startups from NATO countries to its business accelerator in Agia Paraskevi, north of Athens, within a year.
That’s when the NATO Innovation Fund – the world’s first multi-sovereign venture capital fund, established last year – is expected to start making decisions about which startups will be partnered with each of its nine business accelerators in Europe and North America. Demokritos was chosen last year as one of nine accelerators under the NATO program known as DIANA, the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic.
“We have been contacted by several startups in America and Europe” about the possibility of moving to Demokritos, said Dr. George Nounesis, director and chairman of the board of directors of Demokritos.
A NATO spokesperson said DIANA was working to finalize its governance structure and aimed to be operational by the Vilnius summit in July this year. Its European regional office is being set up in London.
NATO has committed to investing €1 billion over 15 years in start-ups and other venture capital funds that develop emerging dual-use technologies with both military and civil. Investments will focus on areas such as artificial intelligence; big data processing; quantum technologies; autonomy; biotechnology and human improvement; new materials; energy; propulsion and space.
The program represents a significant boost for Demokritos in its efforts to boost Greece’s economic development through its research activities. The startups will join the 45 high-tech companies already participating in the Demokritos accelerator program. Demokritos provides its startups with physical spaces to establish themselves, access to its laboratories and business support services such as branding and access to investor networks.
“If you want to become an impactful research ecosystem, you need to be open to technology transfer, private investment and support for entrepreneurship,” Nounesis said.
“If you want to become an impactful research ecosystem, you must open up to technology transfer, private investment and support for entrepreneurship”
With the help of €48 million in funding from the European Investment Bank, Demokritos is modernizing its campus to support its research and technology development efforts that could help transform the Greek economy.
Nounesis, an award-winning physicist, said the investments are part of Greece’s efforts to attract scientific talent to Greece to reverse the brain drain that hit the country, hardest during the last decade of financial crisis.
Over the past four years, Demokritos has created around twenty tenure track positions for foreign researchers and an equal number for Greek researchers in fields such as life sciences, biology, artificial intelligence, Internet objects, robotics and digital manufacturing, Nounesis said.
Seed funding of almost €8 million from the Greek Resilience and Recovery Fund helped Demokritos create a new institute for quantum computing and quantum technology last year, which welcomed a first generation of young people researchers and a young director, all from abroad.
A researcher who answered the call to return to Greece, Dr. Filippos Tourlomousis, is opening Greece’s first digital manufacturing laboratories in Demokritos. Tourlomousis, who like Nounesis did his postdoctoral work at MIT, is founder/CEO of Biological Lattice Industries, an early-stage biotechnology company. It is developing an AI-based robotic biomanufacturing platform for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. Tourlomousis hopes to have its application commercially ready within five to seven years to allow women who have undergone mastectomies to regenerate healthy breast tissue.
Tourlomousis said he was inspired by the Materials Genome initiative launched by US President Barack Obama. The initiative is a multi-agency effort designed to create a new era of policies, resources and infrastructure that help U.S. institutions discover, manufacture and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost.
Georgios Kontogiannis, one of the founders of Lambda Automata, a startup dedicated to building “the perception backbone of future defense and civil protection platforms,” said his company is considering applying to the DIANA program. The company, still in the seed funding phase, worked with Demokritos. “We hope our products can be introduced to the right eyes through these programs,” Kontogiannis said.
John Metaxas is an award-winning journalist, lawyer and podcaster.