The Defense and Security Technology Accelerator (DSTA), located in Fayetteville, NC, is a new and innovative program designed to create collaborations with the military, entrepreneurs, and innovators to drive technology business development, technology commercialization, and job creation. The DSTA leverages two unique assets in North Carolina: the military bases in the Fayetteville/Cumberland County area, and world-class research and innovation in the Research Triangle Park (RTP), as well as other regions in the state.
The DSTA is a business accelerator, assisting entrepreneurs with generating new, just-in-time security and defense technology solutions to meet the military's technology needs, as well as business demands. By providing specialized expertise, technology business assistance, technical resources, and a network of relationships, the DSTA assists entrepreneurs with the rapid development of dual-use defense and security technology solutions to meet military needs and private commercial demands. The DSTA assists in getting state-of-theart technology into the warfighter's hands faster, ultimately saving lives and resources in the global war on terror. Partners in private industry are able to tap into the emerging technologies being developed by entrepreneurs at DSTA.
According to Scott Perry, DSTA Executive Director, "Our companies are past the start-up phase; they have financial wherewithal and normally have a technology in the prototype stage that meets Department of Defense (DoD) Technology Readiness Level 4 (TRL 4). This gives us some type of prototype we can work with, test, and evaluate, and when fully developed, assist the company with commercialization of the technology," he said. "However, as more companies apply for DSTA, we are finding that many companies have very good, cutting-edge concepts, but need some type of funding assistance to take their concept from prototype to commercialization. Recently, we started working with companies with sound concepts, but no prototype. So we've developed a plan that allows us to accept these companies on a provisional basis. To be considered, companies must develop a course-of-action plan with a timeline that demonstrates taking their concept to the DoD TRL4 level. Once they meet these standards, they then become a full member of the program," Perry explained.
The DSTA is part of the Partnership for Defense Innovation, a 501c3 organization chartered for economic development. It is a state-supported program for economic development goals that leverages its location next to Fort Bragg — the fourth-largest military presence in the United States — to its advantage. Perry hopes to "capitalize on the Department of Defense spending dollars that are coming out of Fort Bragg, and specifically, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, one of the most technologically advanced organizations in the military."
Utilizing a unique model of business incubation, DSTA provides specialized services and flexible facilities to accelerate the formation and growth of early-stage defense and security technology companies, and increase their chances for success. A limited number of seed grants also is available to DSTA client companies. DSTA will work with 12 to 15 early-stage companies at its facility in Fayetteville, in addition to assisting 10 non-resident companies across North Carolina through its affiliate program.
In North Carolina, there are approximately 40 business incubators, but with respect to defense and security, the DSTA remains the only accelerator in the state that focuses exclusively on defense, security, and intelligence technologies.
The DSTA has both a federal program and a state program. The state program is the Defense & Security Technology Accelerator. "The goal is to work with companies in the defense and security industry that have a dual-use application, both commercial and military, and we work with these entrepreneurs and innovators to assist them in commercializing their technology or bringing their technology to market in a very rapid time line of 8 to 18 months," explained Perry
The DSTA offers several different ways to be affiliated with the program. Client companies are resident companies in Fayetteville; affiliate companies are nonresident. Said Perry, "Down the road we hope to be working under partnership with some large defense contractors. That would be an arrangement in which we would be providing some type of service for a large defense contractor."
Currently, there are eight companies in the program — seven that are client companies, one affiliate, and four sponsors. There are another 10 or 12 companies interested in the program as either an affiliate or a client company. Resident client companies are provided with programs such as forums and educational venues that provide coaching and mentoring, and educational programs that help in marketing, sales, and business development — the entire commercialization process. "Those interested in our affiliate program are companies that do not want to move their office or staff to Fayetteville, but they want access to our clients and to our programs, and they want access to business development at Fort Bragg," Perry said.
DSTA companies look to place their products into the DoD or other agencies that use defense and security technologies, whether it's a security company, first-responders, or homeland security. "Of the companies we have in house right now," said Perry, "they are working more than 25 contracts, either as a prime contractor or sub-contractor. Our companies have created more than 50 jobs, and if they don't make another dime this year, they will close the year out at about $12 million."
The DSTA can issue grants of $10,000 to $50,000 to clients when properly funded. When underfunded, the DSTA works with venture capitalists, angel investors, and other funding sources.
Goals and Prospects
One of the missions of the DSTA is to foster collaboration throughout North Carolina. There are a number of efforts between the DSTA and academic institutions, business and industry, and the military intelligence community in North Carolina. The DSTA works with the North Carolina Military Foundation, which is spearheaded by the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, as well as the North Carolina Intelligent Business Council, a new program sponsored by the FBI that deals with counter-intelligence and how to protect proprietary and business-sensitive information.
By 2011, Fayetteville is scheduled to be the relocation site of the Forces Command Headquarters and the Reserve Command Headquarters from Fort McPherson, GA. Other work in progress includes arrangements with Fayetteville State University to help them establish an intelligence studies program, working on accreditation to become a CIA Center of Academic Excellence, and a Memorandum of Understanding to seek government contracting efforts with these entities. The DSTA currently has contracts with the Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, FL, and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
Partnerships on the military and defense side are continuously fostered. "We briefed a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee, I've had a meeting at The White House, and, of course, I meet with the North Carolina delegation from Congress on a regular basis," said Perry. "I have briefed some members of the Terrorism Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Committee of the House Armed Services Committee, and I've met with members of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. We're working with the Army Research Laboratory, and the list goes on. I've received a call from an organization in Washington that asked me to come up and give a presentation to their office to see if we can collaborate on their focus areas. They heard about us from members of the House Armed Services Committee," Perry added.
"Our customers have current contracts with the Joint Special Operations Command, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) United States Army Special Forces Command, the National Technology Alliance, the Navy Postgraduate School, and more," Perry explained. "What we need to do is get the word out that we provide great programs and services for our clients, and they have made a lot of headway since they've been here in collaborative relationships."
DSTA's client companies specialize in military, defense, security, and intelligence technologies for both the government and commercial sectors. Here are some of the technologies available from DSTA clients:
Future Technologies, Inc. — Programs support U.S. Army intelligence efforts in various locations in Iraq and cover a broad spectrum of services, including logistics, systems design, maintenance, data processing services, computer training, engineering, and scientific and technical consulting. Capabilities include software development; hardware and software integration; production of aircraft, ship, and combat vehicle simulators; man-machine interface engineering; visual systems engineering; interrogation support; counterintelligence; and intelligence analysis. (www.ftechi.com)
Horizontal Fusion — Provides computer and Web-based training and services to the military and Department of Defense. The company develops and produces curriculums that support the DoD and other participants by conducting sustainment training for deployed troops. The Asymmetrical Threat Analysis Training computer-based modules include Geospatial Information System (GIS) software for visualizing, analyzing, creating, and managing data with a geographic component. It also contains 20 simulation modules that provide a stepby- step interactive training method. (http://horizontalfusion.com)
K3 Enterprises — Specializes in helping companies with government contracts in the DoD and intelligence community. They evaluate, troubleshoot, and develop solutions prior to product presentation to government representatives in geospatial data management, geospatial data and visual products, communications, information technology implementations, and security requirements. Services include program management, personal and physical security, technology testing, and independent technology assessment. (www.k3-enterprises.com)
Olivia Tower — Offers a rapid-deployment, mobile platform that can be fully integrated with a variety of communication, optical, and networking equipment. The tower is used to support numerous types of antennae, cameras, and electronic devices to heights of 6 to 150 feet. The rapidly deployable ("RapUp") mast will extend to 150 feet in 60 minutes, including initial set-up. (www.rapuptowers.com)
Signet Technologies — Designs, integrates, installs, and maintains integrated electronic security systems, including physical and logical access control; smart cards and biometrics; ID card management; building and perimeter intrusion detection; closed-circuit television; digital video recording; contraband detection; barricades, fencing, and lighting; and asset tagging and management. (www.signetinc.com)
For more information on working with the Defense and Security Technology Accelerator, visit www.dstanc.org