Canada has secured a significant role in NATO’s new Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), which will seek to help high-tech startups adapt their commercial innovations to defense and security.

At the 15th Halifax International Security Forum, Canadian Minister of National Defence Bill Blair announced that the Canadian government intends to spend C$26.6 million (U.S. $19.5 million) over six years to establish DIANA’s North American regional office in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The office is expected to open by summer 2024.

DIANA will provide grants, mentoring, test center and investor network access, demonstration opportunities, and other support to startups working in such areas as artificial intelligence, autonomy, big data, biotechnology and human enhancement, energy and propulsion, novel materials and advanced manufacturing, hypersonics, quantum, and space. It has already opened a regional office in London, UK, to serve Europe.

“As the nature of conflict changes, we will need to innovate, to adapt across all domains – on sea, on land, in the air, on cyber, and in space,” Blair said. “We need to invest in game-changing technologies like AI and quantum. That’s exactly what DIANA is going to do for us in Halifax.”


Canada lobbied for placing the North American office in Halifax, citing the presence in the city of more than 300 science and technology startups, several major universities and research centers, and Canada’s Atlantic naval fleet. Halifax is also home to the Irving Shipbuilding shipyard that plans to begin building a fleet of 15 Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) frigates for the Royal Canadian Navy in 2024.

When DIANA’s North American office opens, it will initially occupy temporary space in downtown Halifax, a spokesperson for Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) told on Nov. 23. A competitive leasing process will determine a permanent location.

A staff of more than 40 people is expected to support the regional office, the DND spokesperson said. The personnel will be mix of Canadian government and NATO employees.

DIANA issued its first call for proposals from startups in June and is assessing those submissions to determine which companies will receive support. The United States submitted the most applications, 215, followed by Canada at 211, according to Blair.


Blair also announced at the Halifax International Security Forum that Canada will build a new C$188 million facility at Canadian Forces Base Halifax to train sailors to operate the CSCs. EllisDon Corporation has been awarded a C$7.85 million contract to design the facility, which will be called the Combatant Training and Integration Center – Atlantic (CTIC-A).

“The cutting-edge simulators at the center will provide Canadian Armed Forces members with expertise in above-water, underwater, and maritime air warfighting so that they are ready to sail on our incoming Canadian Surface Combatant fleet,” the DND said.

Blair, a former public safety minister, became defense minister in July, replacing Anita Anand as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle.


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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.