How Enterprises and Entrepreneurs Can Help #InnovateDHS

From first responder technology to cybersecurity, technology is advancing faster than the average company can keep up. Layer in the government procurement process and compliance constraints and it can make for a long and arduous innovation process. That’s why Department of Homeland Security CTO Mike Hermus and Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa and their teams are attacking the challenge head on.

Their approach? Work directly with industry (the government term for enterprise businesses), entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, accelerators and incubators, and universities. This is the same venture collaborative approach that TechNexus takes when we look to solve specific industry challenges. By bringing different perspectives to the table, we’re a force multiplier and translator for each entity trying to solve similar challenges. It creates alignment among programs and ecosystems to solve problems like cybersecurity threats faster, invest in smart emerging technology sooner and get ahead of the rapid evolution of technology.

What does this look like for DHS? The EMERGE accelerator program is a great example of innovation with a government agency. Together with TechNexus and the Center for Innovative Technology, the program will be in its third year this fall. Connecting startups with DHS and with the first responder community, these ventures were able to receive direct feedback on their products and solutions, discuss contracts, and pilot programs together.

In addition to EMERGE, road shows with industry-leaders across the country and hundreds of annual innovation roundtables, are steps toward embracing a culture of innovation. They allow government officials like Mike Hermus and Soraya Correa to glean insights directly from private organizations. Some of the key takeaways from this week’s innovation roundtable, hosted by TechNexus are:

Ask the Right Questions

Chasing solutions to an abstract problem is a fool’s errand, particularly for startups with lean resources and budgets. By collaborating from the beginning to discuss the problem to be solved, agencies like DHS can guide the research, define clear parameters and outline goals, so that private companies and startups can strategically approach these innovation opportunities more effectively. For instance, rather than digging into all city data to solve long commute times in urban areas, it might make sense to only review traffic and mass transit data to identify bottlenecks and other flow issues that can be solved.

Productize Technology and Services

Cities like Chicago are fortunate to have the data analytics to optimize its services such as healthcare, city parks, roads and transportation, etc. These insights give the city the opportunity to create efficiencies and decrease costs for the government. It’s often made up of several complex systems of data that are combined to create the larger picture of how the city works.

But that capability often doesn’t make it past large urban areas into the more rural parts of the state and country, where cost savings can be vital. By working with startups to productize many of the data solutions that larger cities have, these can be shared and customized to solve unique challenges of rural communities.

Take a New Approach

As with any individual or company that has been doing the same work for an extended period of time, it can be tough to take a fresh approach to a problem. DHS works with leading universities to foster innovation because students are uninhibited by previous knowledge and can think outside of the box. Whether it’s with students or another diverse group of people, bringing new points of view to the table to challenge traditional thinking allows for new ideas to take hold.

This is how innovation happens. Through asking specific questions, making technology more accessible, and by thinking more creatively, The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology is making progress toward driving innovation. Today, they have 3,000 new contracts per year, they’re increasingly working with emerging technology ventures, and they’re collaborating with a variety or organizations. For more information on EMERGE, please visit