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Defense initiative scours industry for innovative ideas




Defense initiative scours industry for innovative ideas
Defense initiative scours industry for innovative ideas



http://www.gcn.com/print/26_17/44639-1.html 

By Sami Lais
Special to GCN
07/16/07 issue

Known more for big spending than penny-pinching, the Defense Department 
has devised an almost scandalously cheap way to unearth new, innovative 
technology.

The year-old Defense Venture Catalyst Initiative, known as DeVenCI, uses 
the free expertise, eyes and ears of 11 high-power, private-sector 
venture capitalists in scouring the country for technology that is new 
and ready for deployment. When the agency finds such technology, it 
invests no money. Instead, it brokers a meeting of interested parties 
and lets events take their course.

The brainchild of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, DeVenCI 
works like this: First, its four-person staff, led by Robert Pohanka, 
former director of the Office of Naval Researchs Science and Technology 
Department, meets with acquisition staff members from DOD agencies to 
learn their technology needs.

A lot of information comes from the DOD and government acquisition 
community, who define needs and help us define opportunities. We get a 
lot of input from research and development organizations and especially 
from the warfighter, Pohanka said.

DeVenCI staff members compile a wish list and meet with the board of 
advisers, composed of the 11 venture capitalists, to discuss agency 
needs. Board members then return to their companies and begin to search.

For the next month and a half, they review proposals from technology 
companies. This is how they make money.

The size of the companies doesnt matter, Pohanka said. It can be as 
small as two people in a garage. The focus is on workable innovation, he 
said. Were very product-oriented.

Innovators also are invited to apply directly, via DeVenCIs Web site 
(devenci.dtic.mil). DeVenCI staff members meet again with the board, 
whose members usually bring recommendations for about 30 companies, and 
DeVenCI adds five or six more.

Then we do a tech scrub of what they offer and get it down to 10 or 11 
companies, said Michael Dingman, DeVenCIs communications expert, under 
contract from ITT.

Representatives from each of those companies are invited to make a 
presentation at a workshop that DeVenCI hosts for DOD acquisition 
employees. Each company has 20 minutes to demonstrate its product and 
answer questions.

The topical workshops are where DeVenCI spends the bulk of its budget: 
$2.8 million for this year. Last months workshop focused on network 
infrastructure. A March workshop presented identity management 
technologies. Other topics include applied cryptography, information 
delivery and security management tools.


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