Fall 2021 NATO Innovation Challenge

The invisible threat: Tools for countering cognitive warfare

Can you solve it

Adversarial attempts to manipulate human behaviour will present an enduring challenge to Allied nations’ defence and security. This emerging threat of modern warfare goes beyond controlling the flow of information. Cognitive warfare seeks to change not only what people think, but also how they act. Attacks against the cognitive domain involve the integration of cyber, disinformation/misinformation, psychological, and social-engineering capabilities. The new operating environment for decision-makers engages their ability to both detect and respond to attacks on the cognitive domain.

Cognitive warfare positions the mind as a battle space and contested domain. Its objective is to sow dissonance, instigate conflicting narratives, polarize opinion, and radicalize groups. Cognitive warfare can motivate people to act in ways that can disrupt or fragment an otherwise cohesive society. Ensuing disorder can influence decision-making, change ideologies, and generate distrust among Allies.

Canada was proud to host the Fall 2021 NATO Innovation Challenge on 30 November 2021

The top three finalists were selected on 30 November 2021. Congratulations! For details, visit NATO iHub (you are now leaving Canada.ca for an external site). A huge thank you to all those who participated in this challenge!

The winner of the “Made in Canada” solution, also chosen on Pitch Day, can be found here on the IDEaS program website.

The Pitch Day recorded video is available on YouTube (you are now leaving Canada.ca for an external site).

This pitch-style event invites non-traditional innovative thinkers from across all 30 NATO member nations to showcase ways of securing the cognitive domain against attacks. Whether you work at an industry start-up, in academia, or are part of an established small/medium business, NATO is looking for new technologies and measures that can combat the threat of attacks on the mind.

International visibility and prize money can be yours. Come with your most inspiring ideas.

There will also be special recognition for the top “Made in Canada” solution. In order to be considered for the additional Canadian prize, a subsequent eligibility criteria will be applied. For more information on eligibility, please visit the IDEaS program website.

Challenge theme: Understanding and protecting the cognitive domain

Challenge statement: NATO is looking for tools and measures to identify, assess, and protect against attacks on the cognitive domain of NATO forces and their Allies.

Areas of focus include:

  • Identification of when NATO forces and/or their Allies are under a cognitive attack;
  • Verification of the scale and nature of the attack;
  • Quantification and/or level of the success of the attack;
  • Mitigation techniques, tools and measures to counter a cognitive attack; and
  • Support for decision-makers.

This challenge closed 4 November 2021.


The NATO HQ Supreme Allied Command Transformation (SACT) and the NATO Innovation Hub (iHub) have issued bi-annual pitch events to meet the challenges faced by NATO since 2017.

On behalf of the Department of National Defence (DND), the Fall 2021 NATO IC is being co-led by Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) and the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program. Canadian innovations could be at the forefront of this growing field. We encourage all Canadian innovators to apply.

Helpful Links

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

NATO guarantees the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.

Canada's Department of National Defence (DND)

DND supports the Canadian Armed Forces who serve on the sea, land, and in the air. Canada’s Navy, Army, Air Force and Special Forces defend Canadians’ interests at home and abroad.

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM)

The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command is a high-readiness organization. It offers distinct options for the Government of Canada through unique expertise and relationships. Canadian special operations forces are employed at home and abroad in challenging environments and where a high degree of precision is required.

Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS)

IDEaS is more than just a funding program. It is building a defence innovation ecosystem. IDEaS works to meet defence challenges by accelerating concepts and propelling solutions.

Previous NATO Innovation Challenges

Nato Innovation Challenge Canadian Special Operations Forces Command IDEaS – Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security

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