An Army-led pilot network of federal laboratories, government entities and private-sector partners has diversified income streams in Maryland and established a model for promoting and supporting technology transfer at state and local levels.
The Maryland Department of Commerce Office of Military and Federal Affairs and the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) jointly created the Maryland Defense Technology Commercialization Center (DefTech Center) to support transferring technology out of federal labs and helping local companies commercialize viable products. The Harford County Office of Community & Economic Development provides in-kind facility and utilities support for the DefTech Headquarters housed within the Harford Business Innovation Center and co-located with other aligned small-business resources.
Within the network, CCDC’s role is to develop technologies for potential commercialization and engage prospective DefTech clients. Within CCDC, the Army Research Laboratory (ARL); the Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR, formerly CERDEC) Center; and the Chemical Biological Center (CBC, formerly ECBC) all play key roles in the DefTech partnership.
Funding from the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment helped launch a 12-month pilot program. A competitive bidding process led to the selection of Axcel Innovation LLC of Charlottesville, Virginia, as the third-party contracted vendor to deliver the program. The Army Alliance (supporting Aberdeen Proving Ground) joined with partners Early Charm Ventures of Baltimore and Altus Engineering of Darlington, Maryland, and the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO).
Funding from the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment helped launch a 12-month pilot program.
In a year and a half, DefTech created a state-specific database of defense-related patents and to date has matched more than 150 patents to the needs of its client businesses. In addition, the DefTech team provides training, support and mentoring to more than 40 client companies. DefTech has signed five patent licenses or Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with the DoD labs, and five more companies have patent license agreements (PLAs) or CRADAs in the works.
Because of the pilot program’s success, additional federal funding of $750,000 was awarded through the federal Economic Development Administration under its i6 Challenge grant program in December 2018 to continue geographical expansion. Additional network partners will increase accessibility for businesses and further enhance commercialization outcomes.
DefTech has created new opportunities for dialogue among government, industry, and innovators by reducing the barriers to meaningful interactions. By simplifying access to senior subject matter experts, the network demonstrates to entrepreneurs that federal intellectual property (IP) can be a viable part of creating and growing a business. DefTech and CCDC’s partnership includes conducting workshops and teaching lab scientists and engineers how to pitch their ideas and inventions to commercial businesses and investors.
Plans are underway to provide seed funding for companies commercializing lab IP, a customized pitch program to connect lab scientists and local entrepreneurs, and new entrepreneurship resources at local community colleges.
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