The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is formalizing and expanding a pilot program that connects its research teams with commercial expertise to help get technologies out of the lab and into production.
In partnership with nonprofit venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, the Embedded Entrepreneurship Initiative will provide 150 DARPA research teams with funds to hire business leaders to develop go-to-market strategies. market, commercialization mentors and engagement with a DARPA working group stacked with private investors over the next five years.
The IEE pilot program was launched two years ago because DARPA considers the development of its projects – for technologies such as 5G and 6G telecommunications, therapy and diagnosis of infectious diseases, microelectronics and artificial intelligence – as fundamental to the military and economic power of the United States in the next century. , Kacy Gerst, Chief of Business Strategy for DARPA, said Nextgov. The ultimate goal of the program is to help research teams create dual-use go-to-market strategies for defense and commercial markets.
“Increasingly, DARPA is investing in spaces that have a massive commercial market and a small defense market, such as microelectronics and biotechnology,” Gerst said. “If we want the [Defense Department]To be able to use these technologies in the future, the DOD must be part of sustainable enterprises. »
EEI targets two specific challenges related to the development and adoption of these technologies, she said. DARPA’s research teams are technical, filled with skilled scientists and engineers focused on developing technology. Gerst said they often struggle to figure out how to bring their technology to market because they lack business experience, as well as connections to investors.
The existence of contradictory foreign investments adds to this challenge. Gerst said foreign investors have aggressively targeted early-stage research teams “often while they’re still in the lab or at academia” in order to gain access to intellectual property.
“So there’s kind of a dual problem where we have highly technical teams struggling to raise US funding to advance their technology, but they’re being offered foreign funding that’s pretty easy to secure,” Gerst said. “We have to help them with an alternative there.”
While the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, and the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, or FIRRMA, help protect against conflicting investments, Gerst said the DARPA wanted to proactively address the issue.
“We look at our portfolio at DARPA and think, you know, we have one of the most incredible engines of innovation in the country, and the United States still has the strongest venture capital ecosystem in the world, and we need to couple those two together moving forward,” Gerst said.
So far, the EEI program has raised more than $100 million in investments in the United States alone and created a dozen new companies, according to the press release announcing the program’s expansion.
“By working with IQT Emerge, scientists in DARPA’s Embedded Entrepreneurship Initiative will have access to strategic business and product development insights that will help them move their innovations from early research to commercial use. “, Simon Davidson, executive vice president of IQT Emerge, a new effort within In-Q-Tel working on the EEI project, said in the press release. “We are excited about our partnership with DARPA, which we believe will greatly contribute to the national security of the United States.”
The Department of Defense recently launched another effort to address the same conflicting capital problem. The DOD announced in January the creation of its Trusted Capital Marketplace which functions as a “speed dating app” connecting trusted financial institutions with companies developing critical capabilities.