The NATO Innovation Network

Our Story

Innovation is a word used a lot at NATO and across the private and public sectors. But for the Alliance, what it means and why it matters is critical to maximize its potential.

In simple terms, “innovation” can be considered a new idea, method, or device – or an introduction of something novel to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, or competitive advantage of a given product, process, or service.

Innovation can be incremental, disruptive, architectural, and radical. And while these all have their place, the most important element to NATO IH is “open innovation” – the act of involving people from outside the organization in the innovation process.

With this in mind, the NATO Innovation Network was established as a federation of entities or “nodes”, from NATO and across the Alliance, leveraging the concept of open innovation, to advance:

  • Mutual support
  • Best practices
  • Issues identification
  • Subject matter expertise
  • Invested and engaged audiences
  • Solution proposals
  • Implementation opportunities
  • Mission success

The NATO Innovation Network is a force multiplier for all its nodes, allowing problems and solutions to be considered within this global analytical ecosystem. It’s also distinctly not a static group; new nodes and innovation members are encouraged.

Key to this network is the NATO Innovation Hub: The first ever defense-focused entity fully dedicated to leveraging and promoting open innovation across the 30-nation Alliance.

To achieve this, the NATO Innovation Hub has adopted a strategy to:

  1. Collaboratively harness the power of the NATO Innovation Network’s nodes
  2. Develop, de-risk, and showcase efficient open innovation procedures, opportunities, and real-life outcomes that matter to NATO
  3. Identify and support like-minded individuals who work to emulate open innovation across the Alliance
  4. Engage with internal and external audiences so that all stakeholders are knowledgeable, invested, and supportive of open innovation as a key change-maker for NATO and its member nations
  5. Grow the NATO Innovation Network

An important early – and continuous – partner in defense-focused open innovation is the U.S. DoD’s National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) – formerly known as MD5. Since its inception in 2016, there are now 13 open innovation entities within NATO nations that constitute the NATO Innovation Network – a name used for the first time on the 23rd of October 2017, Pitch Day of the first NATO Innovation Challenge.

In fact, the NATO Innovation Challenge series is an important driver for the creation of new participants and partners and the expansion of the NATO Innovation Network. Each semester, the NATO Innovation Challenge is organized in partnership with a new network member. The first one, in 2017, was a partnership with MD5; the current challenge is in partnership with the Italian Defense Innovation Center.

Each NATO Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for members to support new initiates. And while all members share the same overarching values, principles, and innovation ecosystem, each has developed approaches that align with their national interests and cultures and are attuned to the needs and direction of their sponsor organization.

Today, members are actively working on the open Innovation Challenge, collaboratively refining the best practices for defense-focused open innovation and developing guidance for NATO on procedures to promote innovation throughout the Alliance.

It’s an exciting time to be a NATO Innovation Network member; we hope you will consider joining us today!

For more information on current members, please visit:

And for more information on the current IChall, please visit us at: