Funding the future

“Translocations” is a DNA-inspired poem by Katy Lederer. Illustration @shonaghrae

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NATO’s billion-dollar fund and what it’s done so far

Since early this year, I have had the privilege of being a mentor within the inaugural cohort of the NATO DIANA startup accelerator (DIANA = Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic). The public is now getting a better look at these startups and the problems they are solving. This cohort’s focus is energy resilience, undersea sensing and surveillance, and secure information sharing. Here’s an overview by the Managing Director. 📺 I’ve talked to founders and/or senior leaders of many of the teams in the cohort, and I saw a range of technical and business maturity. I think this is ultimately a good thing, but it does challenge the program managers, its mentors/experts, and other stakeholders in how to meaningfully change the trajectory of each startup that progresses through a DIANA accelerator site. (There are several sites across the U.S. and other NATO allies.) Here is a look at all of the companies, with focus on those that are U.S.-origin.

If you are in the Boston area this week, you may be able to visit for Demo Day this Thursday, May 30, hosted in Microsoft’s space at 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge.

via Cayce Clifford (Bloomberg Businessweek)

X is hunting for fundable mega-opportunities

Alphabet X, the well-funded skunkworks that was birthed by Google to discover the next Google-sized opportunity, has been creating new inventions and proto companies for over a decade. It’s a fascinating and quirky place that can feel unlike any other part of a huge corporation. (I am thankful for having had the opportunity to work on the Rapid Evaluation team.) Innovation is hard and X head Astro Teller has honed his intuition for it, but minting successful world-impacting tech companies that could become centi-billion-dollar enterprises is next-level tough. (🚩Bloomberg)

Graphic by JMill based on National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan 2023 Update, National Science and Technology Council

Federal funding for research and development

While it’s certainly tough to find the next Google, it’s also a challenge to get public-private partnerships to work well and to align incentives. The Special Competitive Studies Project put out a white paper focused on federal research and development funding. The authors identify broad areas for defense and non-defense applications, including: perceptual capabilities, federated machine learning, simulation systems, computing hardware for A.I. workloads, and exploration of theoretical capabilities and limitations. The paper also makes recommendations for structural improvements to government funding mechanisms to help the nation devote non-dilutive, allied capital in ways that the private sector will not or cannot.

Collage by JMill via FEMA

Several sus scenarios from FEMA’s future thinking

Looking at a 2019 FEMA Report (FEMA = Federal Emergency Management Agency), it lists threat scenarios that could harm the entire United States, including a pandemic and space weather. Intriguingly, a footnote (page 7, footnote 9) states two other scenarios “were deemed too sensitive for inclusion in the public version of this document” – what could those scenarios be? Prognosticators guess cyberattack and disclosure of non-human intelligence. What do you think?


Radio jamming and GPS tampering are at an all-time high, while new cockpit systems may keep the flying things flying in the right direction. ⊙ Look at how the industrial base is readying to meet DOD’s 5G needs. ⊙ A.I. has been around for decades, but it’s going through an uncomfortable growth spurt of moving fast and breaking things (even if it has the courtesy of asking permission and the hubris to disregard the response). ⊙ A report on fighting algorithmic warfare suggests the U.S. stand up Cyber Force, a new military branch. Others are not so inclined, suggesting that the current Cyber Command just needs authority to work within the nation instead of strictly outside of it.


Robotics Invest is coming up in a few weeks. My colleague Fady Saad and Cybernetix Ventures are putting together what looks like a great event. And it’s in a cool space, too, over at Artists For Humanity. (Art — its relationship to science and technology — is important to me and The End Effector!)

No One Builds Alone.


1983 illustration of a satellite. Public domain via Space News


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Telemetry is written by JMill of The End Effector.

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