We have all endured a pretty tough year. Our country, citizens and businesses have faced real challenges, but through it all there has been one constant: Science. Because of science we asked and answered questions about COVID-19 and conducted research to know more about the coronavirus and its characteristics. It led S&T to curate critical resources for those on the front lines and to study past threats to prepare for and prevent future pandemics.
It is largely because of scientific breakthroughs that things are opening (yay) and we are getting back to some semblance of ‘normal’. But here at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), we’re looking beyond what or how things were before—we’re building toward ‘better’ and ‘great’ and ‘new.’ We are not only leveraging science to help put an end to the pandemic but also to boost the economy, build a strong and diverse workforce, and create plentiful jobs in research, development, testing and evaluation. And with an Administration clearly aligned with and driven by these priorities as well, there has never been a more exciting time to be at S&T.
Here’s why: Since Day 1, S&T has served as a hub for groundbreaking solutions and advancements in homeland security capabilities. These days, we are doing that and more—connecting a new generation of innovators to DHS missions, fostering R&D partnerships across the whole-of-government, industry, international counterparts and academia, and delivering cutting-edge technologies to the marketplace.
Now that you know the why, let me share some examples of what is going on at S&T and how we are pushing innovation forward and training the workforce of tomorrow:
Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS)—A joint effort between S&T, BMNT Inc. and the Common Mission Project, H4HS matches university students with real-world DHS component technology needs. The first H4HS course, completed during the Fall 2020 semester at the Colorado School of Mines, focused on designing FEMA solutions; the second course, completed during the Spring 2021 semester at Carnegie Mellon University, centered around designing solutions for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Six student teams participated, learning about entrepreneurship and gaining real-world problem-solving experience in support of DHS missions. Two of the teams have already received additional private sector investment funding!
Smart City Internet of Things Innovation (SCITI) Labs—S&T has helped create dozens of R&D jobs through a $21 million investment in SCITI Labs, a partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) that is investing in cutting-edge technologies for first responders, emergency management, and infrastructure resilience. 22 companies S&T is working with through CIT have received nearly $100 million in private sector capital to design and build fire, flood and in-building sensors; communications SmartHubs; and unmanned aerial vehicles that can be deployed indoors and in GPS-denied areas. To date, 11 out of the 22 companies have reported $95 million in increased revenue and the creation of 72 new jobs (with 50 more projected). The collaboration with Virginia has also cleared a path for real-world field testing of S&T technologies at the Stafford County Smart Community Testbed, a public-private partnership that will provide an avenue for smart technologies to be deployed to assist communities in keeping citizens safe.
Homeland Security Startup Studio (HSSS)—HSSS is designed to accelerate and deliver commercial applications of technologies from federal laboratories, research centers, and universities. Program participants, including inventors, entrepreneurs, and mentors form teams around selected technologies to assess their commercialization potential. During the 18-week program, the teams identify the best use-cases and possible market fit through customer discovery interviews; they also hone their entrepreneurial and technical skills, potentially even creating a company to license the technologies. The first HSSS cohort is underway with 10 teams and a second cohort is planned for later this year.
Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP)—SVIP harnesses the commercial R&D ecosystem for technologies with government applications to co-invest in and then accelerates them to the commercial market. To date, SVIP has provided nearly $27 million in non-dilutive funding to startups and leveraged $580 million in private sector investments in support of DHS component missions.
At S&T, we are especially aware of the responsibility we hold to provide solutions to meet current and emerging threats, to bring creativity and inclusion to our R&D efforts, and to engage with as many technologists, researchers, and entrepreneurs as possible—all of the while leading with science first and foremost.