One of NATO’s important missions is to respond to crisis. While these events may be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from conflict, to natural disaster, there are common operational issues that occur every time NATO is engaged. In addition, all response organizations, local or international,  face similar challenges in a crisis.  The purpose of the NATO Innovation Challenge / ODU Lion’s Lair Innovation Competition is to tap into the minds of innovative people and teams to find more effective and efficient ways for NATO, or other response organizations, to stabilize troubled areas and save lives.

NATO’s important mission




Energy Logistics Screen%20Shot THE CHALLENGE



The challenge scenario centers around assisting a major metropolitan area to stabilize and recover from a breakdown in civil order after being struck by a super storm. For this exercise, we will use a hypothetical coastal city, similar in its characteristics to Norfolk, Virginia, but in an isolated location. This may be visualized by using a map of the United States, and removing every other city in the states of Virginia and North Carolina, plus the District of Columbia. This will make Baltimore, Maryland and Charlotte, North Carolina the closest large population centers. 


The following conditions are noted:

  • Prior to the storm’s approach, approximately 50% of the region’s citizens evacuated, with the rest sheltering in place or in local evacuation centers. Dwellings and buildings in the flood zones were inundated with water from the massive storm surge which accompanied the event, and approximately 90% of the roofing in the area was destroyed. The sewage treatment facilities were flooded, releasing contamination into the adjacent waterways. The facilities are currently inoperable. 
  • The storm destroyed most of the overhead wiring in the electrical distribution network, and flooded electrical distribution centers located in the flood plain. The storm washed out the rail lines, and left the main highway to the south as the only serviceable road coming in and out of the region. All tunnels were flooded.
  • Personnel casualties are widespread. Reports of deaths and injury are starting to come in from flooded and other areas due to situations like drowning, electrocution, and debris impact. Outside power was lost at all hospitals, which are now running on auxiliary generators.
  • There are multiple reports of looting of businesses, and houses which were abandoned by evacuees.
  • There are two Atlantic storm systems coming up or approaching the coast. The NOAA cone of probability shows the city in the path of Hurricane Robin which is potentially one week away from landfall. Additionally, Tropical Storm Stuart is approaching the coast and potentially two weeks away.


The NATO Challenge is looking for innovations and new solutions in three potential areas:

  • Logistics and Energy – How may we reduce the labor, material, and energy required to respond to the crisis? How may we get the required items into the crisis area? How may we ensure the efficient flow and security of labor, material and energy throughout the area?
  • Security – How may we stabilize and maintain order within the crisis area? How may we improve the security of the population, NATO personnel if applicable and other responders? How do we improve the security of personnel and public property? How do we protect systems and information from cyber threats?
  • Medical – How may we improve medical response during the crisis? How may we ensure proper medical treatment for the largest number of affected persons? How do we limit the spread of infection and disease during the crisis?


The NATO Innovation Challenge / ODU Lion’s Lair Innovation Competition is particularly interested in solutions that may incorporate such things as: internet of things, autonomous systems, telepresence, unmanned systems, cybersecurity, and information management and sharing.


Ask questions in the forum or through email at [email protected]