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The very first technology foraged under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate's (S&T) Transition to Practice (TTP) program has transitioned to the commercial market almost two years ahead of schedule.
In 2013, TTP Program Manager Mike Pozmantier identified Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Quantum Secured Communication, a next-generation encryption system that leverages the quantum properties of light, as an innovative solution to better protect the nation’s critical cyber infrastructure. Through the TTP program, he introduced it to commercial industry partners, and it quickly generated interest at Allied Minds, a science and technology development and commercialization company. On Aug. 27, the company announced it had exclusively licensed the technology and has formed Whitewood Encryption Systems, Inc. to take it to market.
“We are excited that the first commercialization license for a technology from the TTP program has been finalized,” Pozmantier said. “We believe this technology will be beneficial to the nation’s security by creating encryption keys based on truly random numbers at high rates allowing for application of this technology in areas where it previously wasn’t feasible."
Established in 2012 as part of S&T’s Cybersecurity Division in an effort to support the Department’s mission of improving the nation’s cybersecurity capabilities, the TTP program looks to transition federally funded cybersecurity technologies from the laboratory to consumers. The program also seeks to create institutional relationships between the cyber research community, investors, end users, and information technology (IT) companies.
According to Pozmantier, he and his team look for the most promising technologies at a variety of sources including the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, other government labs and the National Science Foundation. Each year, the labs work on hundreds of projects that, for a variety of reasons, never receive commercial or end-user exposure. Once the TTP team has identified these promising technologies, they look for ways to transition them into the commercial marketplace.
“We’re doing everything possible to get public benefit out of the enormous investment the government makes every year in cybersecurity research,” Pozmantier said. “We’re trying to get technology out of government labs in order to secure things that are part of our daily lives like the power grid, finance sector and companies that consumers do business with every day.”
From selecting technologies to transitioning them to the marketplace, Pozmantier estimated the process takes about 36 months. Eight technologies were selected in 2012 and were presented to potential vendors and end-users in 2013. Several other technologies that were part of this inaugural group are under final legal review for commercialization licenses, and could be on the market in 2015. In total, commercial partners are actively engaged with eight of the 17 current TTP technologies. This year seven technologies have been selected and will be introduced to potential vendors and end-users in 2015.
Each year, Pozmantier and his team host events around the country to showcase the technologies to end-users. They work with companies from the energy, financial, IT, investment and government sectors to find someone to pilot the technology, take ownership of the project and turn it into a commercially available product.
By focusing on creating and improving institutional relationships between the research community and the end-user, you can get the customer involved at an earlier stage of development. This ensures that users provide feedback to the researchers directly during the development process and can increase the amount of programs and technologies coming out of the labs.
“We’ll have 24 technologies in the program by the time we get to fiscal year 2015,” he concluded, explaining that this is just a small number of the actual projects in the research and development pipeline. He hopes exposure through the TTP program will result in better partnerships between the private and public sector and a greater ability to solve bigger, more complicated cyber issues.
With the success of the Quantum Secured Communication technology’s transition, Pozmantier hopes commercial technology partners and end users will take notice of other technologies in the TTP program as solutions to complex problems that will help make cyberspace safer for all computer users.
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