Civic News

How DreamPort is creating space for collaboration on cyber challenges

As the Columbia space looks to double in size, it's reaching out in Maryland: "It's a great way for small businesses or businesses of any size to directly engage with the government," Director Armando Seay said.

DreamPort. (Courtesy photo)

The large cybersecurity presence that creates an interplay between government and industry in Maryland has long had meaningful economic impact in the state.

With the opening of DreamPort in Columbia last year, there’s a visible — and unclassified — sign that the collaboration between partners inside and outside the government can make a technical impact, too.

Located on Columbia Gateway Drive, the 17,500-square-foot facility was opened late last year by the nonprofit Maryland Innovation & Security Institute (MISI). Through an agreement with U.S. Cyber Command, the space is designed for exploring, testing and collaborating on technology that will ultimately help further the government’s mission, said DreamPort Director Armando Seay. The Corporate Office Properties Trust-leased space is set to double in size with an expansion this fall.

In the work of creating this new technology, there’s a place for companies to get involved — including those from Maryland, Seay said.

“We try to get industry to engage here. That’s one of the things that’s a big deal for us,” Seay said. “That’s why it’s an unclassified facility.”

There are signs of that throughout. Near the entrance, there’s a cafe where DreamPort hosts biweekly Cyber Conversation & Coffee events.

“It’s a great way for small businesses or businesses of any size to directly engage with the government,” Seay said.

A “technology pantry” provides a look at some of the companies that committed time, resources or technology to the space. That can involve providing a look at unclassified versions of tech tools that the government might not otherwise be able to access.

“We try to work at the speed of innovation,” he said. “As fast as we can get our hands on it is as fast as we want to get our hands on it and provide the government with the answers on it.”

DreamPort works on specific challenges where U.S. Cyber Command is seeking to reach out. In a government-facing project, the center is also working on election security.

When it comes to bringing industry in, Seay pointed to examples that involved Maryland manufacturing companies getting engaged as the center worked on security tools for industrial control systems, while other work involves partnering with academia. Inside a lab, technologists are testing new solutions that are then shown to industry in areas like internet of things. In other areas, there are places to fabricate and assemble hardware, and networks and cyber ranges for testing.

There are also events for technologists looking to gain new skills and work on their own platforms. This fall’s calendar includes AvengerCon IV for U.S. Cyber Command employees. At a Sept. 12 tech talk, NVIDIA, Cisco and NetApp team members will discuss AI and machine learning.

With the new, doubled space, Seay said there will be more areas for open collaboration, cafe space and more. Outside the building, plenty of cyber-related companies are located nearby on Columbia Gateway Drive in an area that’s been growing as a cyber hub with office space that’s in close proximity to Fort Meade, where U.S. Cyber Command and other key government agencies are headquartered. DreamPort brings such a federal government presence even closer.


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