• Douglas Maughan from the Department of Homeland Security speaks to AFCEA committee members.
     Douglas Maughan from the Department of Homeland Security speaks to AFCEA committee members.

DHS S&T Has Money to Award for Innovation, New Technologies

By Katie Helwig

Douglas Maughan, director of the Cyber Security Division at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), recently briefed members from AFCEA International’s Homeland Security and Small Business committees on the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP), which launched in 2015 and serves to cultivate relationships with technology innovators, particularly nontraditional performers, from small startups to large companies, investors, incubators and accelerators. The program, from the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, expands the department's reach to find new technologies that strengthen national security with the goal of reshaping how government, entrepreneurs and industry work together to find cutting-edge solutions. The program embraces three ideals:

  1. Educate—help investors and entrepreneurs understand the DHS’ difficult problems.
  2. Fund—provide research and development money, up to $800,000 over two years, for solutions that solve a specific problem.
  3. Test—offer test environments and pilot opportunities.

The program is broken down into these four phases: Proof-of-concept demo; demo pilot-ready prototype; pilot-test prototype in operation; and test in various operational scenarios. Each phase is treated separately and lasts between three and six months. Awards range from $50,000 to $200,000 for each phase and offers several benefits, from the government serving as an early adopter of the solution without a company risking dilution of ownership, and help in buying down investor risk while reaching a goal of making the nation safer.

Officials are accepting applications to address six critical topics:

  • Internet of Things (closing this month)
  • K9 wearables (closing in June)
  • Big data (closing in June)
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles for border patrol (closing in July)
  • Identity verification and authentication (closing in July)
  • Finance technology security (closing in November)

The timeframe between when a proposal is submitted to when it is awarded ranges from 60 to 90 days. Individual companies retain the intellectual property and the products produced are unclassified and will be available for global commercial use.

Who should apply? DHS seeks entrepreneurs with a passion for the mission, who demonstrate collaborative problem solving characteristics and who are poised for growth.

The SVIP has received 112 other transaction agreement, or OTA, applications. Twenty-seven start-ups have been invited to pitch their solutions; nine have been awarded and decisions on four others are still pending.

To keep track of the opportunities marketed under the SVIP, track opportunities listed under “Innovation Other Transaction Solicitation” (OTS) and join the email list: DHS-Silicon-Valley@hq.dhs.gov.

Over the past year, S&T has reached out to innovators, nontraditional partners and other stakeholders at regional events across the country including Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; and San Francisco. The events will continue throughout the coming year.  

Katie Helwig is director of small business programs at AFCEA International.

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