Innovation doesn’t just happen; it takes determination, creativity, time…and often takes a helping hand. Recently, I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote address at a public event featuring the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T)’s newest crop of innovators borne out of our Homeland Security Startup Studio (HSSS).This innovative program partners industry experts with government researchers to deliver technology solutions to our nation. Conducted in partnership with the venture-building company FedTech, the HSSS pairs inventors from federal labs with seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors to help move federally funded technologies from the lab to the market. And applications are already open for HSSS ’22!
The 2021 HSSS program occurred over two phases. In Phase I, 10 teams learned foundational entrepreneurial knowledge and skillsets to quickly assess potential use cases for their matched technologies. Phase I concluded with an internal pitch day that resulted in five teams progressing into Phase II, where they focused on forming early-stage companies to commercialize their technologies.
After assessing over 450 federally funded technologies from DHS and other agencies, S&T identified commercially promising technologies that align with the homeland security mission. The recent HSSS ’21 Converge Event offered a glimpse of what’s on the horizon. The virtual event represented the culmination of the 18-week HSSS program and provided an opportunity for the five Phase II teams to present their progress to an audience of homeland security experts, inventors, and venture capital representatives. The stage was set for 6-minute pitches from each team followed by an intense round of questioning from attendees. Each team had to make the case for its technology.
The new companies and their technologies included:
- Axle Technologies LLC’s universal application programming interface to securely control and monitor vehicles;
- Charisma Cyber’s predictive model based on machine learning to attack adversary networks;
- Dynasec’s moving target defense for thwarting cyber attacks;
- Electrum Smart Alerts’ nighttime facial and object real-time alerting system; and
- Hawk Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance Detection Systems’ spectroscopy scanning with cloud-based reference library.
After each team had a chance to impress—and quite frankly, they all did impress—the audience had the opportunity to vote for their favorite. The winning teams were Charisma Cyber and Hawk NQR Detection Systems, though my congratulations extend to all participants. The winning companies each received $1,500 in additional support from FedTech to help grow their companies. It was truly inspiring to hear from our inaugural ambassadors of the HSSS program.
These five teams feature a broad array of distinguished experts across various fields and 81% of HSSS21 entrepreneurs are women or people of color. Preparing for a future of unknowns requires new thinking; thus, it is vitally important that our problem-solving efforts incorporate diverse perspectives.
Though Converge is now behind us, much still lies ahead for our innovators as they move forward with licensing and commercializing their technologies. S&T is invested in the success of these new companies and will continue to monitor their progress into the future. The expert training, coaching, and mentorship they received is invaluable – as is the potential impact of their technologies on the safety and security of our nation. I was so excited to see how far they’ve all come and can’t wait to see what’s next!
If you’re an innovator/entrepreneur and wish to participate in HSSS ’22, apply online now! Also, this program is just one way that S&T accelerates the delivery of new capabilities to our nation. For more information on S&T’s innovation programs and tools, visit: https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/work-with-st.