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Technology test bed

The Launch selected as NATO network test centre

By Moira Baird

The Launch has been selected as a test centre for NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic network (DIANA).

The DIANA network provides a variety of cutting-edge infrastructures where companies and researchers can de-risk, demonstrate and validate dual-use technologies for both defence and civilian purposes.

The Launch, the Marine Institute’s state-of-the-art living lab in Holyrood, was officially designated as a test centre on March 14, along with 12 other Canadian test centres and two accelerator sites.

Kelley Santos, a white woman in her late 40s, smiles at the camera against a white backdrop.
Kelley Santos
Photo: Angie Bishop

‘Significant role’

Kelley Santos, director of The Launch, says it is an “incredible honour” to join the DIANA network as a Canadian test centre and will continue their work within the innovation ecosystem to support the testing, refining and deployment of novel technologies to address NATO challenges.

“This designation once again reinforces the significant role of the Marine Institute and Memorial University in providing access to world-class infrastructure and test facilities to diverse innovators and partners nationally and internationally,” Ms. Santos said. “We look forward to contributing to the DIANA innovation ecosystem and collaborating with its transatlantic network to develop world-leading technologies.”

Next steps

Over the next couple of months, Ms. Santos says The Launch will formalize an agreement with the DIANA network.

“Once we formally join the network, it will open up The Launch to NATO DIANA programs. They issue challenges to innovative companies and researchers to develop technology solutions that address global problems. The next round of challenges is expected this fall.”

In November, 44 companies were chosen from more than 1,300 applicants to come up with dual-use technologies for energy resilience, undersea sensing and surveillance, and secure information sharing.

A large yellow floating vessel equipped with various machinery in a large double height workspace
Metocean buoy in a workshop at The Launch.
Photo: Submitted

‘Ideal testing environment’

“This designation exemplifies the Marine Institute’s continued commitment to industry and academia,” said Dr. Paul Brett, vice-president (Marine Institute), Memorial University. “The Launch provides an ideal testing and demonstration environment for the DIANA network. This transatlantic network is a great example of the power of international collaboration in fostering innovative technologies and developing solutions for real-world problems.”

The network, which now totals 182 test centres and 23 accelerator sites in North America and Europe, includes government programs, universities and corporate research arms.

Test centres are matched with selected entrepreneurs and researchers who develop and evaluate their concepts and technologies for defence, security and civilian uses.

“Canada is a hub for defence innovation — and Canadian innovators have a great deal to offer our NATO allies,” said Bill Blair, minister of National Defence. “I congratulate all the Canadian accelerators and test centres for being selected to join NATO’s defence innovation network. The integration of our domestic experts with NATO’s network will strengthen our capacity to develop cutting-edge solutions to the security challenges faced by Canada and our NATO allies.”

White boats with MI branding tied up to a wharf.
Research and training vessels at The Launch.
Photo: Submitted

Fostering co-operation

DIANA is a NATO body bringing together universities, industry and governments to work with startups and other technology innovators to solve critical defence and security problems.

The network was launched in 2021 to foster transatlantic co-operation on critical technologies, promote inter-operability among Allied forces and harness civilian innovation by engaging with academia and the private sector.

The Launch features a digitally connected living lab environment for technology development, testing, validation and demonstration that supports applied research and commercialization of new technologies in marine and related sectors.

The facility provides shared access to an extensive range of autonomous surface vehicles, metocean buoys, autonomous and remotely operated vehicles, and gliders.

The Launch is home to SmartAtlantic, the largest applied ocean observatory system in Canada and data provider to the Canadian Integrated Ocean Observation System.

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