A recently implemented collaboration aims to help Maryland agencies expand a program designed to boost the work of the state’s Department of Defense-affiliated labs.
DefTech is a state-backed program that helps entrepreneurs develop products for the commercial or government market by connecting them with intellectual property and tech available for license in Maryland’s federal Army labs. Now, in a new partnership with TEDCO, DefTech seeks to expand by collaborating with Navy labs and reaching entrepreneurs statewide, including rural areas. The program features tech in a multitude of industries, including medtech, biotech, cyber and beyond.
With the fresh funding, DefTech will also be able to implement a pilot program for prime and subcontractor resiliency. The newly expanded initiative is expected to formally launch later this month.
DefTech was initially launched by the Maryland Department of Commerce in 2018. Jennifer Chiasson, the agency’s grant program manager, said that DefTech grew out of the department’s search for new ways to diversify the state’s defense industry. The federal Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment and the Regional Innovation Strategies Program funded the program. DefTech, Chiasson said, was founded as a pilot program in technology commercialization that specifically looked at technology developed in army labs.
Backed by grant funding, the hope was to bring cool technology out of the labs and into the commercial market. For the Commerce Department, that meant assisting entrepreneurs in ecosystem-building activities and client relationships. In the military labs, DefTech has staff available that help match technologies that are available for licensing with those who are interested in them. DefTech also has three geographic outposts in Havre de Grace, Frederick and Columbia.
With the expansion, the hope is to reach even more founders and economic opportunities. According to the Commerce Department’s own figures, the program enabled $28,110,000 in client investment capital raised and 314 new jobs since its inception.
“Our goal has always been a fully statewide program — not just focused on facility tech transfer at those Army labs, but to incorporate the Navy labs as well in the state, and really have an impact everywhere,” Chiasson told Technical.ly.
Right now, Chiasson said the program is still being funded via grants; in the long term, she hopes the partnership with TEDCO (which did not immediately return Technical.ly’s request for comment) can help make the program more sustainable. She said DefTech previously worked with approximately five labs across the state, and the goal is to at least double that with the expansion — though, she clarified, DefTech has already worked with labs without a formal partnership.
For the Commerce Department, she said the DefTech program offers a chance to bring unique assets and innovation into the state’s economy.
“We’re always interested in innovation building and opportunity generation, and I think it’s a little different than what we do, certainly, but I think that’s what makes it exciting,” Chiasson said.
With the expansion, TEDCO and the Commerce Department are also looking to expand into rural communities beyond the DC and Baltimore metro areas. Tapping into technological talent in those regions, she hopes, can expand the tech offerings even more.
“There’s a lot of opportunity [in Southern Maryland] to drive new product development and technology transfer activities outside the gates down there,” Chiasson said.
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