Competing companies are working to a common goal of testing and selling new technologies to government.
A newly created research and development consortium aims to expedite the piloting and testing of new technology for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, one of the Department of Homeland Security’s top missions. This effort, using a successful Defense Department procurement model, also hopes to expand innovation by making it possible for small businesses that don’t traditionally do business with the government to bring their ideas forward.
One hallmark of the Border Security Technology Consortium (BSTC) is that very large, established defense and homeland security contractors are members along with the small, newer nontraditional firms. “All of the tasks are under full and open competition within the consortium, and so there’s incentive for both the consortium and the government to have as much participation as possible,” emphasizes Mervyn Leavitt, vice president for applied research and development with SCRA. It is the nonprofit research company that organized and manages the consortium at the request of some of its charter members.
“With government regulations, sometimes it’s very difficult for nontraditionals that normally don’t do business with the government to break in, and often these are the firms that have very innovative ideas,” Leavitt adds.
At the heart of the BTSC is a special federal procurement vehicle known as the Other Transaction Authority (OTA). OTAs are used in agencies such as NASA and the departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security, and they are designed primarily to expedite science and technology-related research and development. In the realm of rapid prototyping and development, OTAs make such work attractive to small companies.