Nowadays, the speed of change in diverse technologies, especially emerging and disruptive ones, forces Poland to take an entirely new approach to mapping the innovation environment. Furthermore, above all, appropriately build relationships between civilian and military structures, businesses, and the entire group of government departments and other institutions. Of course, the abovementioned process is not only a Polish, somewhat national challenge, as it is also visible in other countries. An example of this was the presence at the conference of representatives from France (where the Agence de l innovation de défense operates with increasing success) and the USA (where bridges have been building for years between innovation, the armed forces, and the symbol, although the operation of DARPA is not the only manifestation).
Above all, several activities are being undertaken today in the context of enhanced allied cooperation within NATO (examples are the DIANA Defense Innovation Accelerator and the NATO Innovation Fund) and the European Union (EDF and the Hub for EU Defence Innovation). The EU space is characterized by an almost revolutionary change in how it views security and defense issues. Symbolic is the work of the European Defense Fund (EDF) and its contribution to the painstaking locating of technological changes from Europe in an already global technological race. So now we have a kind of synergy of transatlantic opportunities between NATO and the EU, which on the Polish side should be used for the country’s security and the development of industry, research, and science.
Polish authorities see the need to support innovations for security and defense
It can be considered even more of a success that Poland and its innovators are becoming increasingly active in the face of national needs and allied cooperation. We can see that by the growing number of applications concerning European and transatlantic projects. At the same time, several critical qualitative changes are visible in the state’s behavior, led by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the already-mentioned Ministry of Development and Technology (MRiT).
However, apart from the announcements, there is still a lot to do in Poland in the coming years, as Waldemar Sługocki, Secretary of State at the MRiT, and Cezary Tomczyk, Secretary of State at the MoD, said in their introductory statements. Both ministers emphasized awareness of the needs and necessary systemic actions. Nevertheless, a very positive message from this type of meeting is that the ministries are looking for new forms of achieving the necessary synergy in the work to strengthen the Polish innovation space and the development of the entire dual-use technology environment.
The state’s role is evident in this respect, as it is necessary to create an appropriate legal space, support information activities, and work in the NATO and EU dimensions. However, it must be assumed that just as the work has a cross-ministerial dimension, the effects of an appropriate approach to innovation will also have cross-ministerial effects. We are talking about obtaining the necessary capabilities in security and defense, the country’s resilience, appropriate profits for the economy, or the development of the scientific and research space.
As for the meeting at the MRiT, it was intended to combine two elements - building an environment for the future and sharing the results that have been created in recent months. Hence, the director of the innovation development department of PFR SA, Eliza Kruczkowska, and the director of the innovation department of the Ministry of National Defense, gen. Marcin Górka initially presented a document entitled „ Roadmap for projects supporting the development of technologies with dual-use potential. „
Emphasizing that the very approach to this environment requires several initiatives that exist today, but some also need to be planned. At the same time, they directly indicate that today, the international environment requires Poland to be an essential ally in transatlantic and European security. Then, the meeting participants could learn about the practical side of PGZ Stocznia Wojenna activities with innovators as part of the particular IDA Bootcamp project.
It is already happening - the first conclusions after the IDA Bootcamp
Generally, the idea of the IDA ( Innovative Dual-use Tech Accelerator) Bootcamp, i.e., meetings intended to develop understanding between innovation environments in Poland, was thoroughly presented during subsequent conference slots by PFR SA representatives. The participants of these meetings highly appreciated that everyone could see opportunities for cooperation, sharing their experiences, and building a platform for exchanging information in the future.
It should also be added that the world-famous ICEYE company, through its presentation, highlighted an example of the practical use of innovation, translated into tangible and market-expansive solutions with military and intelligence characteristics. ICEYE shows that skillfully recognizing and applying innovation in practice is an opportunity to enter challenging technological markets where the sky is not the limit but even space. Furthermore, the Thorium Space company, equally recognizable on the market as the most advanced technology, presented a picture of its development as an approach to dual-use technologies. In this case, the publication on Space24.pl is worth noting- „Double impulse. Thorium for the Polish economy and security.
During the event at the MRiT, it was possible to observe that we are talking about Polish dual-use technologies and deep-tech technologies. It is not a vision of the future; it is a reality being created now. Moreover, during the conference, there was also the opportunity to get acquainted with an overview of the capabilities of Polish startups offering technological innovations in segments relating to unmanned platforms, for example. Participants also discussed how to approach the issue of financing work on dual-use technologies. It is also one of the strategic challenges when thinking about innovation and its subsequent translation into necessary activities in the industrial sphere. Hence, searching for the necessary balance between state funds allocated to science, research, and development also creates incentives to enter private financial resources.
We are in the middle of a fight for breakthrough technologies
In the background of the most critical discussion on the modernization of the armed forces in Poland, we must recognize that there is also a strategic race regarding access to the entire state apparatus to the latest solutions that may be groundbreaking in security and defense. At this point, we can use the term used by NATO - EDTs emerging and disruptive technologies. In this case, the difficulty is noticing their broad scope, i.e., from the latest solutions in the field of robotization through technologies that draw on the dynamics of the development of artificial intelligence (AI) to new materials.
What binds us together is the recognition that today, the armed forces themselves, and even the state apparatus itself and the classic arms industry, are not able to map in real-time all the key and, above all, innovative solutions emerging in the space of science, research, and development (R&D), but also the startup environment.
Hence, even military and scientific powers such as the USA, France, and Israel strive to build the necessary new environment for innovation. It is intended primarily to provide flexibility in the work of innovators but also to enable them to obtain the necessary financing and skillful use of knowledge in practice. However, this cannot be done only based on silo thinking, relating to the perception of defense and security issues through the eyes of de facto individual ministries of force, intelligence services, or other security structures.
The speed of not just one revolution but many technological revolutions simultaneously requires opening up and building synergy with the civilian market. Of course, while maintaining the necessary elements defining security and defense. That is why a strategic, long-term, and based on a systemic approach of the state towards the dual-use technology market is becoming so important today. In this context, it becomes crucial to create mutual trust and channels for transmitting information between different environments, as well as developing new forms of financing projects.
At the same time, the abovementioned change is a matter of strengthening the country’s defense capabilities and the need to be comfortable with the technological changes taking place among our partners in the NATO, EU, and global dimensions. Moreover, we are not talking about some futuristic vision of the future because AI solutions are at odds with the functioning of the armed forces, the structures of secret services, or other state agencies.
NATO's eastern flank requires a strategic vision of the environment for innovation
In the context of observing Ukraine’s defensive war, it would be trivial to point out the validity of looking at unmanned solutions in their holistic dimension. A dimension that talks about each domain of operation, but also the means of command and control necessary with, for example, new requirements for drones in the context of the impact of hostile electronic warfare (EW) or activities in the cyber domain. Such examples are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and the decisions currently made will place us as Poland either on a collision course with them or, on the contrary, we will become one of the most important explorers of such issues.
Especially since today, we are dealing with two de facto processes of change on NATO’s eastern flank - a reactive response to the Russian threat and the experience from Ukraine’s defensive war (requiring a new standard in the quantity-quality relationship), as well as actions ahead of new strategic challenges, covering not only Russia itself but also the area of relations with China and non-state actors.
In both cases, innovation and dual-use technologies are a matter of achieving the necessary aggressiveness and effectiveness in creating one’s defense system. The simplest example is increasing the presence of unmanned systems (a reaction to Ukraine’s experience) in the armed forces, but at the same time correlating this process with work on artificial intelligence and the use of the entire range of future-proof C5ISTAR solutions.
To conclude, Poland has excellent opportunities for innovators, and there is also a chance to make greater use of dual-use technologies. Especially since the ministries of the MoD and the MRiT see such a need, but also that new dimensions of allied relations within NATO and the EU are opening up. However, we are talking about something other than a straightforward process because Poland still needs to overcome several challenges related to the state system, defense, security, resilience, and science-business relations.
However, the meeting on January 30, 2024, showed significant grassroots will to act to improve this space. Moreover, behind-the-scenes conversations show that groups can now talk to each other and take specific, practical actions.
Finally, it is worth encouraging readers to read the electronic version of the document „ROAD MAP Key conclusions and recommendations for activities supporting the development of technologies with dual-use potential in Poland” (Defence24.pl cooperated in the creation of this study). [It is available in Polish here - ROAD MAP](https://pliki.pfr.pl/mapa-drogowa