Maryland’s Technology Transfer Center Moves Concept to Commercialization.



What does superglue have in common with jeeps and digital computers? All of these blockbuster products were developed or tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) in Harford County, Maryland before making their way to commercial markets. To advance commercialization of technologies first developed for the military, the Maryland Defense Technology Commercialization Center, otherwise known as DefTech, is now open for business in Harford County. Developed through a partnership between the Maryland Department of Commerce, Harford and Cecil counties and APG, DefTech is located in Havre de Grace, less than two miles from the APG gate.

“This center gives a real opportunity to apply the research and development that’s been done at Aberdeen Proving Ground,” Len Parrish, director of the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, said. “We have the chance to take that R&D and bring it outside the gate and into the region’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

APG: A MAJOR ECONOMIC ENGINE

If a soldier uses a technology to shoot, to move, to communicate, or for intelligence, chances are that it was either developed, tested, or fielded at Aberdeen Proving Ground. With a 100+ year history of military innovation, APG is already a major economic engine in the region, as Maryland’s sixth largest employer and the largest employer in Harford County. In 2017, APG had a $6.5 billion economic impact and awarded more than $12 billion in contracts; $1.3 billion of those contracts were awarded to Harford County businesses. With technology being innovated every day at APG, there is clearly an opportunity to further economic growth by networking scientists and entrepreneurs with commercial opportunities. In fact, more than 24,000 military, contractors, and civilian personnel at APG contribute to patent development for technology that, with the right connections and resources, could be commercialized for public use. DefTech’s aim is to be that connection and provide those resources.

FROM CONCEPT TO COMMERCIALIZATION

More than 4,000 people with advanced degrees and more than 10,000 scientists and engineers work on all levels of research and development at APG. With this ongoing innovation network, there are currently more than 800 patents that could be explored for commercialization opportunities. “There are numerous patents on APG that could

have real-world applications outside the military,” Parrish said. “Escalating a scientist or entrepreneur’s contacts with APG to contracts with the commercial sector is a good thing for everyone. We have innovative technology developed behind the gate that we in the public could use. There may be a soldier in Afghanistan that needs to charge his communications equipment fast, so he hooks it to a lightweight, state-of-the-art charger. What’s not to say someone camping state-side can’t use that same versatile technology to charge his lantern, or his phone?”

DefTech’s partners at APG include three organizations under the umbrella of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), which is charged with creating, integrating, and delivering technology-enabled solutions to the military. The three RDECOM entities taking part in the DefTech initiative include: the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), dedicated to research and analysis for new technologies; the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, dedicated to research and development of non-medical chemical and biological defense; and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronic Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), dedicated to the research and development of information technology, communications networks, and more. These three entities have access to research and patents, and are looking to open them to product development.

DefTech’s activities will be centered on assisting patent holders in either developing their ideas or pitching them for commercialization, focusing on four themes – education and training, mentoring, events, and outreach and networking. The office will provide a collaborative workspace with entrepreneurial resources for those getting started with an idea. Representatives in the office will also participate in outreach and networking events, as well as technology and discovery showcases to raise awareness for the ample commercialization opportunities out of APG. As a service to entrepreneurs and innovators without knowledge of how to commercialize technology patents, DefTech will also provide educational programs and individual mentoring to help navigate the commercialization process.

Leading the office will be Dr. Gary Evans from Axcel Innovation LLC. Already, Dr. Evans and his team have developed a database of patents that have originated in Department of Defense installations in Maryland: one third of these patents were devised at APG. The database is designed to be more user-friendly and to boost a culture of entrepreneurship in the region. Maryland’s Defense Patent Database can be accessed at smtcpp.thinkbiotech.com.

Most recently, Dr. Evans’ team hosted DefTech’s first meeting, entitled “Commercializing New Technologies,” to raise awareness about commercialization opportunities. Representatives from technology transfer offices at Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, and DefTech spoke to attendees about the commercialization process, and encouraged them to explore opportunities for entrepreneurial growth. “Those looking to commercialize need a network they can tap into,” Evans said. “That’s what DefTech is here for: to provide that resource.”

FROM CONTACTS TO CONTRACTS

DefTech is funded by the Maryland Department of Commerce through a defense diversification grant from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. According to the Maryland Department of Commerce, this grant’s aim is to link companies in the state’s defense sector with new business opportunities and to engage engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs in commercialization activities.

“Engineers and scientists at Aberdeen Proving Ground are developing cutting-edge technology that can be put to broader use, benefitting our economy and our quality of life,” Mike Gill, the Maryland Department of Commerce secretary, said. “Through the DefTech Center, Maryland will provide the resources and direction entrepreneurs need to bring this technology to the commercial marketplace. The Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment and Harford and Cecil counties played critical roles in this endeavor, and we appreciate their support.”

Harford County is providing space for DefTech’s headquarters in-kind at the Harford Business Innovation Center in Havre de Grace on U.S. Route 40, 1.5 miles from Aberdeen Proving Ground. The center will work closely with the Office of Community and Economic Development, located in the same business park. DefTech’s strategic location also takes advantage of co-located Community & Economic Development partners, such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the Maryland Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), and the Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). By having a host of support partners from both inside and outside the gate, DefTech will act as a true resource center for people interested in exploring technology transfer and will provide a full spectrum of business development opportunities to advance innovative concepts to commercialization.

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A CULTURE SHIFT

Marking a significant step in the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, DefTech’s implications are more extensive than progressing patents for technology to use in the public market. DefTech’s partners see its institution as a catalyst for an entrepreneurial renaissance, and aims to promote a culture shift within the region centered on technology development and economic growth.

“Harford County is pleased to work with the Maryland Department of Commerce and proud to be the home of this exciting new venture to commercialize technology developed at APG,” Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said. “By connecting these opportunities to businesses outside the gate, DefTech will enhance support for the installation and bring good jobs to Harford County and the region.”

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For additional information on the
Maryland DefTech Center, contact Dr. Gary Evans,
410-638-4460, ext. 7971 or visit the
DefTech website at www.deftechmd.net