QUESTION: Why is DHS reaching out to innovators? ANSWER: First responders risk their lives every day.Not many people would willingly run into a burning building.S&T wants to engage with innovators who have great ideas about how to help first responders work more safely, efficiently, and securely. S&T wants to make solid investments and send a clear signal that this matters to us.
QUESTION: Why is EMERGE unique? ANSWER: This is our second time using the EMERGE concept. S&T is partnering with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) located in Herndon, Virginia and TechNexus in Chicago to reach out to innovators. We want to tap into the startup community to find novel ideas and new technology that can help fire, police, and emergency management technicians respond better. We know there are many great wearable technologies in industries such as performance athletics that can be used to help first responders. The team is looking for early-stage companies with next generation wearable technology that could be adapted for first responders. The idea is not to take the technologies off the commercial path, but rather see if they could be modified for first responders, and also to educate the startup community on the needs and market of homeland security.
QUESTION: What is an accelerator? ANSWER: An accelerator is an organization that typically helps startup and early-stage companies mature and grow their businesses. Accelerators generally provide a structured training program over several months, extensive mentoring for company founders, limited capital investment, access to additional investors, and other services.
One of the most important values provided by accelerators is access to mentor networks that can facilitate early market validation, allowing companies to prove they have a product somebody would be willing to buy. Entrepreneurs additionally derive great value from the innovation environment, interacting with a group of people who share similar interests, and experiences in starting new businesses.
QUESTION: Why is DHS S&T interested in the use of accelerators? ANSWER: S&T is using a variety of approaches to mobilize innovators around the country and the world to solve homeland security’s most difficult challenges. S&T is identifying a number of opportunities to find early prototypes under development for commercial purposes that can be adapted to address cross-cutting homeland security needs. These include prize competitions, tapping into accelerator networks, directly funding startups that match homeland security needs, and open dialogues to bring innovative solutions to homeland security community.
Specifically, for the wearable technology area for first responders, some estimates are that this is a one trillion dollar commercial market over the next few years, and it is certainly a market that is seeing significant investment and innovation. If S&T is able to leverage this commercial activity, it should be able to get cutting-edge technology into the field faster and at much lower cost to the government than trying to develop these technologies on their own.
QUESTION: What is the focus of EMERGE 2016: Wearable Technology? ANSWER:EMERGE 2016: Wearable Technologyis focused on dual-use wearable technology for first responders.
QUESTION: What do you consider to be wearable technology? ANSWER: We are using a broad definition of wearable technology, inclusive of physiological sensors, high-performance materials, health support such as hydration, communications capabilities, situational awareness and similar technologies. The key element is a first responder would wear a portion of the system while doing their job.
QUESTION: What type of operational conditions do first responders experience? ANSWER: Operational conditions may include low or no visibility; extremes of temperature, moisture and other environmental conditions; and being jostled or roughly handled during exerting activities. Equipment must remain functional and not melt, shatter, or otherwise pose additional hazards to responders. Furthermore, responders already carry maximum equipment loads, so size and weight matter, as does the fact that additional capabilities will need to share power sources, displays, and personal-area networks.
QUESTION: What is Center for Innovative Technology’s (CIT) role? What is TechNexus’s role? ANSWER: Created in 1985 as a non-profit corporation, CIT’s mission is to foster new technologies and new technology companies through a variety of mechanisms including research grants, investments in early-stage companies, and by operating their own accelerator for cybersecurity companies, called MACH 37. Primary funding for CIT is from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
CIT conducted research into the most effective ways for S&T to leverage accelerators, and worked with S&T on the first EMERGE pilot.
CIT is working with TechNexus in Chicago, Illinois. TechNexus was founded in 2007 and is a venture collaborative that assembles entrepreneurs, engineers, strategic partners to find disruptive technologies with more than 200 companies, raising $225 million, and the creator of the Illinois Technology Association, which now has 700 tech-focused company members.
QUESTION: How do I apply? ANSWER: Applications will be handled through CIT and TechNexus, which can be accessed www.CIT.org/EMERGE. The application deadline is Friday, September 2, 2016.
QUESTION: Who is eligible to apply? ANSWER: EMERGE is open to companies from startups to Series A funding and whose founders are ready to engage in a rigorous mentorship program designed to produce next generation wearable technology that can be adapted for first responder operations. EMERGE 2016: Wearable Technology is looking for candidates that are:
Creating commercial wearable technology that could be adapted for first responders;
Able to turn their labor into commercial success; and
Ready for startup capital, business/market mentoring, and early product validation.
QUESTION: Would my service company qualify? ANSWER: While product solutions may have some downstream service/support aspects, predominantly service companies do not qualify for EMERGE 2016: Wearable Technology.
QUESTION: What happens if I am accepted into EMERGE 2016: Wearable Technology? ANSWER: Early-stage startup companies that are accepted will be provided an intensive training program and market validation involved with TechNexus. The program will include interaction with first responders, S&T, end users, ways to showcase prototypes, and discussions on future opportunities.
QUESTION: How does the program work? ANSWER: The EMERGE 2016: Wearable Technology opens to applicants on Monday, August 8, 2016. The application process will close on Friday, September 2, 2016. The announcement of companies selected will be on or about Monday, September 26, 2016. There will be at least one demonstration day to showcase the results.
QUESTION: Will the government buy my product after I complete the program? ANSWER: DHS is committed to using cutting-edge technologies and scientific talent in its quest to make America safer. However, there is no provision for the government to buy products as part of EMERGE. Furthermore, it is likely that products coming out of EMERGE also will need additional product development and extensive testing and validation before they are ready for fielding with first responders. The federal government, and particularly S&T as an R&D entity, is not generally the end-user of these technologies. Individual federal, state, local or tribal agencies will have their own procurement processes and requirements. S&T is actively exploring ways to foster innovation and hasten transition, and EMERGE has high visibility, so we believe companies will have opportunities to demonstrate their innovative products to key industry leaders.
QUESTION: What are you trying to get out of the program? ANSWER: S&T wants to surface new technology that addresses the needs of the firefighter running into a 4-alarm building. We want to help the police officer working in the community. We want to help the paramedic responding to a car accident or a heart attack victim. We need to help them with innovative technology to respond faster, with more accurate information, to protect themselves while saving the lives of others.
QUESTION: What will the participants get out of EMERGE? ANSWER: Participants will get help with maturing their business through CIT and TechNexus and assistance tapping into the first responder market and validating that they have a good product and someone might buy it.
QUESTION: What happens next? ANSWER: EMERGE is searching for inventors, startups, and small companies to be part of the program. EMERGE starts Monday, August 8, 2016 and ends on or about December 31, 2016. The program will include events heading into Spring 2017 to include South by Southwest and others to talk with innovators, first responders, and investors in person to increase interest in EMERGE and the prototypes. We will have at least one demonstration day where people can touch and feel the products, and end users can see the offerings and results.