Success Story

Maryland Commerce, Aberdeen Proving Ground, and County Partners Open and Expand Defense Technology Center

DefTech Center ribbon-cutting ceremony

The ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the DefTech Center in Maryland. Photo courtesy of Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development

Maryland has more federal labs than any other state—74 to be exact. The Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor (CSSC), the Northeast Maryland communities surrounding Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), has been honored as a “Great American Defense Community” by the Association of Defense Communities (ADC). While the region has been praised for its support of service members and military families, the Maryland Department of Commerce (MDC) recognized that counties were heavily dependent on defense spending and in need of economic diversification.

The Maryland Defense Technology Commercialization Center (DefTech Center) and initiative were founded in February 2018 as a 13-month pilot program funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). To help the county economies grow and use their proximity to advanced defense technology to the region’s advantage, MDC’s Office of Military and Federal Affairs and its federal lab partners built this innovative program to support transferring technology out of federal labs and helping companies commercialize viable products.

Originally, the partnership included MDC, Harford and Cecil Counties, the U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL), the Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR, formerly CERDEC) Center, and the Chemical Biological Center (CBC, formerly ECBC) under supervision of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC). Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Frederick County, and the City of Frederick joined at the end of 2018, along with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) at Fort Detrick and the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade. Via a competitive bidding process, Axcel Innovation, LLC, under the leadership of Dr. Gary Evans, was selected as the third-party contracted vendor to implement the agreed upon scope of work. The Army Alliance (Harford County), Fort Meade Alliance, and Fort Detrick Alliance joined as official partners, along with three private partners—Early Charm Ventures, Altus Engineering, and Maryland TEDCO.

In the short year and a half of its existence, DefTech has created a state-specific database of defense-related patents and identified 156 patents for business mentees this year alone. DefTech’s 2.5-person full-time staff has provided training, support and mentoring to 35 companies, two of which have executed Patent License Agreements (PLAs) and Collaborative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). Five more companies are presently engaged in negotiations for either PLAs or CRADAs.

Initially situated within close proximity to Aberdeen Proving Ground, the program expanded to include Fort Detrick and Fort Meade at the end of the first 12 months of the pilot program. DefTech has achieved significant public gains by garnering strong support from government, industry, and academia since its launch. The DefTech initiative has been endorsed by the governor of Maryland and both its U.S. senators. Because of DefTech’s early success in the pilot program, additional funding of $750,000 by the Federal Economic Development Administration under its 16 grant program was awarded in December 2018 to continue geographical expansion. DefTech provides a practical and scalable model of successful technology transfer and commercialization for other states and regions to replicate.