Continuous advancement in nonvolatile and morphotropic beyond-Moore electronic devices requires integration of ferroelectric and semiconductor materials. The emergence of hafnium oxide (HfO2)–based ferroelectrics that are compatible with atomic-layer deposition has opened interesting and promising avenues of research. However, the origins of ferroelectricity and pathways to controlling it in HfO2 are still mysterious. We demonstrate that local helium (He) implantation can activate ferroelectricity in these materials. The possible competing mechanisms, including He ion–induced molar volume changes, vacancy redistribution, vacancy generation, and activation of vacancy mobility, are analyzed. These findings both reveal the origins of ferroelectricity in this system and open pathways for nanoengineered binary ferroelectrics.