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SIGNAL Executive Video: An Outpost for Government, Industry Technology Collaboration

Innovation in cybersecurity is a collaboration between industry and government, as entities come together to solve problems. The Technology Advancement Center (TAC) is one nonprofit working to meet the needs of government and business so they can unite to solve challenges. CEO Gregg Smith spoke about the group’s work with small businesses in a recent Executive Video with SIGNAL Media.

“What we're trying to do with these small businesses is to provide them with some value, how to sell into the government,” Smith said. “We're also trying to solve the government's problem to make sure that they are a viable company … so they can leverage that technology that the small business brings.”

The TAC’s broad mission focuses on three main pillars: small business and academic engagement, workforce development and innovation, Smith said. One signature effort is the company’s “Small Business Wednesdays” events, where experts look to pair business needs with technologies to meet those missions. They also examine business funding and where it comes from, keeping an eye out for foreign investors, Smith said. In some cases, the TAC team will do a complete product evaluation, which looks at each product, each feature and each benefit to produce a detailed report. The cyber company Darktrace showcases a TAC report on its website

The TAC hosts other unifying events, from sector leaders to students to entrepreneurs. Smith said a recent “Hack the Railroad” event, focused on the cyber domain of the railroad industry, was a huge success. It covered everything related to railroad cyber infrastructure, from security vulnerabilities on the consumer end, with mobile tickets and mobile purchases, to digitized train components such as signaling mechanisms and operating systems. The TAC plans to host an even larger version in 2024.

Relevant industry leaders attended, such as Amtrak on the service side and the U.S. Cyber Command on the cybersecurity side. They came together with businesses providing solutions like Cylas, a railway cybersecurity company. The area is currently underserved, and Smith explains the event provides “a lot of opportunity for companies like Cylas to to really become the leaders in that particular industry.”

The TAC’s work with companies can be paid or unpaid depending on the services provided to each individual business, which are adapted to their needs.

Each focus pillar must work cohesively to meet cyber needs now and into the future. The TAC helps prepare the next generation while acting as an important bridge for solving prevalent cybersecurity problems now. “What we're trying to do is tackle those big difficult challenges that we have as a country have by utilizing the training that we do, as well as that small business and academic ecosystem,” Smith said.

The future of cybersecurity in part hinges on getting young people and students involved in science, technology, engineering and math education, commonly referred to as STEM education, Smith said. “All of our training, whether it's for the middle schoolers or the high schools, for the military or for college age students, is all using real-world hardware and software,” Smith said. “That's one of the key differentiators of how we train our future cyber warriors versus what's typically out there in the community today.”

Our latest SIGNAL Executive Video Series features TAC, a nonprofit focused on innovation in the technology and cybersecurity space. TAC, or Technology Advancement Center, is committed to serving as a leading source of government-industry collaboration. Learn how it is achieving this mission and the different solutions TAC offers the community.

The TAC’s focus also seeks to help alleviate the “tremendous shortage” of nearly 600,000 vacant cyber jobs today, with training focused on getting older students ready to fill those gaps, he said.

Smith also discussed the value of innovation, citing as an example the TAC’s work with companies at the bleeding edge to combat Russian election interference. He explained the group has been focused on election security for more than three years and the work is only becoming more relevant.

The TAC is looking to add two facilities in the Washington, D.C., metro area, and wants to expand its international reach. The group plans to host versions of its popular cybersecurity events in Europe, South Korea and Singapore. Its recent successful event Hack the Hospital, which focused on cybersecurity solutions for the health care industry, is an event that will be hosted for a European audience, Smith said.

The TAC also is working on revenue diversification, looking for new opportunities in government and commercial spaces, which Smith said “falls into the long-term viability of our program.” It is working to curate a space where people want to come in and collaborate in facilities that serve needs, such as by having unclassified and classified spaces to work.

“We are very much open for business,” Smith said. “If you happen to be a prime contractor, please come and talk to us. If you're an equipment provider, please come and talk to us. … If you're a small business and you have a product, please come and present to us.”