DND - The invisible threat: Countering cognitive warfare

Updated Information

Update: The deadline has been extended to November 4, 2021.


On behalf of the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND), this NATO Innovation Challenge is being co-led by Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), the Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, and the NATO Innovation Hub.


NATO Innovation Challenge

For More Information

Visit the NATO Innovation Challenge Page.


The Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), on behalf of Canada, will be hosting the Fall 2021 NATO Innovation Challenge – The invisible threat: Countering cognitive warfare. The theme of this pitch-style event is understanding and protecting the cognitive domain.

NATO is looking for tools and measures to identify, assess and protect against attacks on NATO forces and NATO Allies in the cognitive domain.  Successful innovators will pitch their best solutions and tools to a panel of experts from NATO countries.  On top of international exposure and cash prizes for the best solutions, there will 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, visit the IDEaS Web site. 

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.  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. 

DND is seeking innovative 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.

Information on detailed challenge topics is also available. 

Funding Availability

$8,500 in monetary prize. Relevant solutions could support the development of future NATO concepts, doctrine, standards, requirements, capability development, and will get stage-time at NATO-wide events

Special Notes

Review the official rules for applicants from industry or academia headquartered or located in NATO member countries.


Please note that research activities carried out in the context of COVID-19 need to adhere to the University of Guelph COVID-19 research principles, policies, guidelines and processes as they may be updated from time to time and communicated on the Office of Research web-page.


If College-level review is required, your College will communicate its earlier internal deadlines.

External Deadline

You must register before Oct 20. Abstract Submission is October 21. 

How to Apply

Timeline and process:

  1. Register before October 20. 
  2. Send questions to experts
  3. Develop and submit abstracts by October 21 deadline
  4. Selected Abstracts Announced in November
  5. Solution Proposal is developed and submitted (for the selected abstracts/teams only) by November 23 deadline.
  6. Test telecommunication technology to pitch remotely over the internet
  7. Online Pitch Day and Award Ceremony is November 30.
  8. Make your pitch and present your solution in public. 
For Questions, please contact

Contact DND via email at contact@InnovationHub-act.org

Office of Research

Angela Vuk, Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist
Office of Research Services
519-824-4120 x55026

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