Some of our most widely used technologies might not exist without the private sector and government joining forces. Smartphone essentials like touch screens, digital voice assistants, GPS—and even the Internet—have resulted from this sort of collaboration. These are a fraction of the many life-changing innovations driven by public-private partnerships.
Supporting Joint Innovation Efforts through Public-Private Partnerships
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) continues a long tradition of working closely with the private sector to develop innovative technology with a new Long-Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA). LRBAA is an open, standing invitation to the scientific and technical communities to share their unique homeland security research concepts for potential funding.
“We are targeting unique revolutionary and maturing technologies that demonstrate the potential for significant improvement in Homeland Security missions and operations,” said William Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Undersecretary of Science and Technology.
Listening to Our Partners
Industry and academic researchers can review topics in the LRBAA portal and apply for R&D awards that include traditional contracts, Other Transaction Agreements, and grants. Until recently, however, industry members described the LRBAA as unclear and inefficient. In response, S&T completely revised the process. The new approach simplifies the application process, more clearly defines homeland security needs, and increases communication throughout the process. Overall, S&T reduced the time from submission to award by more than five months.
“To ensure the effective transition of products, we engage our procurement and acquisition colleagues at the beginning of that process,” said Mr. Bryan. “As part of this, we continually seek to bring new technologies to the table, to ensure the safety and resiliency of our communities and those who protect them.”
Rather than S&T approaching companies on an individual basis, an open invitation like the LRBAA helps expand the reach to industry. LRBAA taps into diverse perspectives and approaches to tough homeland security problems and helps S&T better meet the technology needs of their frontline operators across the homeland security community. The modernized LRBAA better reflects how the private sector does business. The latest changes are designed to increase transparency, accountability, visibility and flexibility throughout the process.
Introducing a New Process
The newly streamlined process allows scientific discussion between S&T and innovators. Candidates can even demonstrate their concepts and prototypes using videos.
“Gone is the White Paper and the lack of transparency,” said Soraya Correa, Chief Procurement Officer at DHS. “In its place is our new Long-Range BAA process, which includes a discussion with an S&T Program Manager, followed by a two-phase procurement process.”
Industry can begin the LRBAA application by submitting a three-page abstract, a quad chart, and an optional video. In the ten days that follow, a program manager will contact the applicant to discuss the submission. If the submission meets a high-priority research need, the applicant may be invited to participate in the proposal process.
During the first phase, the applicant has twenty minutes to pitch a research idea to a peer review panel. Based on the panel’s confidence assessment, a Scientific Review Officer may advance the application and request a written proposal. The Peer Review Panel will evaluate the written proposal and recommend an award subject to successful contract negotiations. A unique addition to the process is that S&T will now provide technical feedback on written proposals even if they are not recommended for an award.
“To deliver solutions to our customers we need to, number one, better understand our customers’ needs,” said Bryan. “We do this by engaging security operators on the front lines to better understand the operational challenges they face in complex threat environments. This allows us to define requirements and work with industry innovators to develop cost-effective solutions.”
The new LRBAA took effect in June with a revamped portal, this portal makes it easy to search topics, apply for funding, and see the results. In the months since S&T launched the new process, they have held webinars and produced videos to promote and educate their partners on LRBAA. For more information, see the video and webinar.