Estonia supports start-up accelerator to develop defence AI, cyber-security solutions

In a bid to simulate the development of new cyber-security solutions that could be used to secure the country's infrastructure, Estonian Ministry of Defence is supporting the launch of a start-up accelerator, CyberNorth.

In a bid to simulate the development of new cyber-security solutions   that could be used to secure the country’s infrastructure, Estonian Ministry of Defence is supporting the launch of a start-up accelerator, CyberNorth, with a focus on defence artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber-security solutions.

The accelerator is launched by the Tallinn-based start-up accelerator Startup Wise Guys in cooperation with the Estonian Defence Industry Association.

"Estonia has been on a constant quest for cyber-innovation for almost 20 years. The Estonian Ministry of Defence has encouraged new initiatives and cooperation activities in cybersecurity on governmental level and also among universities, industry and NGOs," Eleka Rugam-Rebane, a media adviser at the Ministry of Defence, tells SC Magazine UK. "This initiative is financed by private entities and investors from Estonia and other European countries and the overall budget for the programme should be €400,000 euros (£356,130) which will be mainly invested in newly-created companies."

Rugam-Rebane says CyberNorth "is warmly welcomed" by Estonia’s Defence Ministry, as the new cyber-security solutions that could be developed under the program could be beneficial for the country "and we consider using them in the future if the working prototypes will become useful solutions."

According to Startup Wise Guys, the new accelerator foresees an initial investment of up to €30,000 (£26,700) with a follow-on possibility. 

"Applications are open and we are looking for early stage cyber-security, space and defence startups that have at least an MVP, solid and passionate team with global ambitions," Startup Wise Guys says.

The online applications phase was opened in November and will last until January 2019, following which up to 25 start-ups will be invited for a three-day Selection Bootcamp event to be held in Estonia’s capital Tallinn in February. The program will be launched in March when teams will be relocated to Tallinn to start working at a designed co-working space. Work is scheduled to be completed in June, and post-programme support is scheduled for July to September.

Set up in 2012, Startup Wise Guys says it has invested in more than 100 early stage start-ups with founders from more than 35 countries. Its portfolio start-ups have raised some €20 million (£17.8 million) to date, according to data released by Startup Wise Guys.

"Estonian startups value the good references the cooperation with the Estonian [Ministry of Defence] gives them. For the government, it is vital to gather the best available solutions for examples for the cyber exercises and learn from each other," Marily Hendrikson, the Cyber-Security Project Manager at Startup Estonia, a government institution tasked with stimulating the Estonian start-up ecosystem, tells SC Magazine UK. "As the Estonian market is very small, … all of our startups have to go global from day one. This means also that being acquired by local government is usually not the ambition of a startup. The ambition is to go global."

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