Accelerators support start-ups by providing business guidance, access to capital, connection to community, shared resources, and the support of a mentor network. The number of accelerators increased tenfold in the U.S. between 2008 and 2014, and now there are more than 7,000 accelerators and incubators globally. According to a report by the Brookings Institute, the average value of U.S.-backed accelerator companies is $7.1 million, and for those that secure venture funding, their valuation skyrockets to $90 million.
To unlock the potential of accelerators to support blue tech, there needs to be a driving force that can bring nations together for a common goal. NATO, with its 30 allies and over $1 trillion dollars in annual defense expenditures, is well-positioned to lead this new global accelerator network toward the creation of the digital ocean. The seas are critical to NATO member states, with 24 being maritime nations, and the remainder within close proximity to the water. These nations have a shared need to protect their waters to ensure safety, economic prosperity, and food supply for their citizens.
The newly launched NATO Maritime Unmanned Systems Initiative (MUSI), which brings together 14 NATO Allies to accelerate the development and integration of unmanned systems into Allied navies, could lead the effort to create the digital ocean.
NATO, led by the MUSI team, could use this shared focus and pooled resources to create a network of accelerators in member states. This convergence of research, business, and venture creates an ecosystem that nations need to drive a culture of innovation and give rise to the start-ups needed to harness the ocean’s full potential.