Ukraine’s defense tech cluster BRAVE1 to invest $39M in startups in 2024. How is it working

BRAVE1, a defense tech coordination platform, has awarded 84 defense tech grants worth $1.53 million. The platform plans to finance Ukrainian startups with more than $2 million by the end of 2023. The budget for 2024 reaches more than $39 million. AIN.Capital talked to Nataliia Kushnerska, Project Lead at BRAVE1, about the initiative.

What is BRAVE1

The BRAVE1 defense tech cluster was launched by the Ukrainian government over seven months ago, on the 26th of April 2023. It is a platform for the cooperation of defense tech companies, the state and the military, as well as investors, volunteer foundations, the media, and everyone who helps to bring victory closer through technology.

In general, the cluster’s work is focused on the following projects:

  • Army of Robots — unmanned robotic systems with a full range of capabilities: combat, kamikaze, logistics, demining, etc. (over 75 developments of the UGV are on the Brave1 platform; already 25 Ukrainian robots were tested on the ground under the EW and tried out striking capabilities)
  • Army of EW — electronic warfare solutions to protect and support our Army on all levels (over 39 developments on the platform)
  • AI — mapping the ecosystem, solutions, and products, identifying key directions of implementation (35 developments on the platform)
  • Demining — gathering key stakeholders for military and humanitarian demining and presenting Ukrainian developments on the niche  (20 developments on the platform)
  • UAV — developing manufacturers of drones (200+ companies work in the sphere, over 60 companies have MoD contracts)
  • Opening up innovation superhighway: building bridges and connecting dots (NATO, DIU, USA, Czech Republic, French, Italy delegations, matchmaking events, VCs, etc.)

“We are building the world’s most dynamic defense innovation hub, Silicon Valley for defense tech, featuring 4S: Speed. Simplicity. Scale. Synergy. Through implementing Euro-Atlantic NATO standards, Ukrainian defense tech companies have become a part of the global defense market. Our strategic aim is to have at least 10 Ukrainian defense tech companies that become unicorns/primes. In the coming years, we will witness the emergence of powerful Ukrainian defense tech companies worth billions of dollars. The growth of this sector will play a critical role in Ukrainian defense policy for decades to come and will remain a top national priority,”

Nataliia Kushnerska, Project Lead at BRAVE1, said.

BRAVE1 is also aimed to create a strong community of defence tech stakeholders who benefit from exchanging expertise and opportunities.

The results so far

  • Since the launch of the platform, Brave1 has received over 780 applications from Ukrainian startups, and up to 420 of them already passed expertise by General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
  • Over 365 developments have received BRV1 (medium & high estimation).
  • So far in 2023, the cluster has awarded 84 grants worth $1.53 million. For comparison, in August this year, only 15 startups were financed, receiving a total of $225,000 in grants.
  • Another 49 solutions worth $745,000 are at the stage of signing contracts.
  • Furthermore, the first 4 Ukrainian solutions from the BRAVE1 ecosystem (including ”ShaBlya” by Roboneers) received approval from the MoD to put on service for defense forces.

For 2024, the state budget allocated around $39 million (UAH 1.5 billion) to finance the development of BRAVE1. The amount of grants will also be increased. As of the end of autumn 2023, an average grant is about $5,000-25,000, in 2024, grants will reach the amounts of $50,000, $100,000, and $250,000.

Recently, AIN.Capital talked with one of the active investors in Ukrainian tech startups about the importance of defense tech in Ukraine and Europe. You can read the interview, by following the link.