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A $641K DoD grant reinstated Maryland’s DefTech Center for defense innovation

The DefTech Center will now operate with new funding and Maryland's TEDCO at the helm.

Opening of the original DefTech Center in 2018. (Courtesy photo)
Full disclosure: TEDCO is a Ecosystem Builder client. That relationship is unrelated to this report.

Entrepreneurs seeking to innovate in the mid-Atlantic’s aerospace and defense sector now have some extra consolidated support thanks to the State of Maryland and federal government.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation granted the Maryland Department of Commerce $641, 573, with part of the funds being used to restart the Defense Commercialization (DefTech) Center. The resurrected program will now be administered by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), the state-connected investment vehicle for tech companies across the state.

The DefTech Center was originally founded in 2018 as a space for entrepreneurs to use federal resources for development of commercial products that could also be used by the government. The Center was funded by the DoD, Harford County Office of Community & Economic Development and U.S. Army labs at Aberdeen Proving Ground. In 2019, it was funded via a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

The program ended after funding ran out at the end of 2021. Lisa Swoboda, senior director in the Maryland Commerce Department’s  Office of Military and Federal Affairs, told that “at the time, it was unclear if the DoD federal funding opportunity would again be offered.” 

Swoboda added that the program is being reinstated not only because of the success it saw during its first few years, but also because the DoD wants to keep up with an evolving tech industry by diversifying its partnerships.

During its three-and-a-half years of operation, the original program worked with 83 entrepreneurs and their companies, created or retained 632 jobs in Maryland and raised $33 million in investments, according to Swoboda.

“The restart of the program will allow DefTech to work more closely with the NavalX technology initiative,” she explained via email. “The DefTech Center is focused on creating opportunities for technology development by fostering relationships (oftentimes, but not exclusively, in the form of new technology transfer agreements) between the DoD and non-traditional companies/start-ups.”

Swoboda cited TEDCO’s history of working with small companies and entrepreneurs as reasons why it was chosen to manage DefTech going forward. She added that TEDCO has been involved in the DefTech steering committee since it started in 2018.

Kim Mozingo, TEDCO’s director of federal programs, specifically worked with DefTech before joining TEDCO last year.

“TEDCO has the resources and collaborations to develop DefTech into a sustainable program,” said Mozingo via email. “With ongoing relationships with DoD labs and with the Maryland Department of Commerce, it is a natural collaboration to continue the work of DefTech at TEDCO.”

A statement noted that DoD grant will also fund the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Support Program, in which the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) will work with defense technology companies Northrop Grumman and Textron to “adopt Industry 4.0 standards.” These standards refer to automation, smart technology and machine-to-machine communication that can make manufacturing processes more efficient.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: TEDCO / Department of Defense / State of Maryland

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