Tammi Thomas

Maryland houses more federal labs than any other state in the nation. These labs are more than just government facilities – they hold sophisticated technologies and world-renowned experts that support small business growth and innovation.

Unfortunately, this asset has not been leveraged in a way that supports such growth and development. From a lack of knowledge about how to approach the researchers to simply being intimidated by the size of these labs, many small businesses that could benefit from collaborations with federal labs hesitate to do so.

To remedy this gap, TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, recently announced a new program – the Federal Lab Leveraging Innovation to Products (FLLIP) Pilot Program – that will promote new strategies for leveraging these unique assets. The program’s promise inspired a roundtable discussion about the $1,150,000 earmarked federal funding and the potential to support innovation growth.

The discussion, hosted by TEDCO at their new headquarters in Downtown Columbia, was joined by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressman John Sarbanes.

Creating a better Maryland

Cardin spearheaded the discussion, explaining that while federal labs are “centers of innovation and research,” Maryland needs to more efficiently “connect the dots,” allowing entrepreneurs in the private sector more access to these assets.

The strategy conceived to address this was the creation of the FLLIP Pilot Program, a collaboration between TEDCO and the Frederick Innovation Technology Center, Inc. (FITCI). This effort creates a strategic approach to developing more alliances, specifically those supporting Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individual (SEDI) businesses in Maryland.

While an evident boon for the small businesses collaborating with federal labs, Van Hollen explained that such efforts are also a win for “federal public dollars, as we work to build a more inclusive economy.”

“This kind of project and initiative is designed not just to benefit the people around this table,” Sarbanes added, “but to hopefully set a template for how we do this going forward, so Maryland can take full opportunity and potentials of these assets.”

A strategy to support Maryland’s economic growth

As explained by Stephen Auvil, chief federal engagement officer at TEDCO, and Kim Mozingo, director of federal programs at TEDCO, this program’s goal is to get researchers to pull companies into federal labs for collaborative innovations, rather than the current process that involves a push from the small companies and TEDCO.

More specifically, this program will focus on supporting SEDI businesses through a developed framework called ACES. This framework will ask the TEDCO team to: (1) assess companies, finding out what support and education is needed for them to move forward; (2) connect with federal labs to find out what projects could be supported through collaborations; (3) engage with companies by teaching individuals how to work with federal labs; and (4) support the collaboration through a variety of resources, like TEDCO’s Network Advisors program.

Looking ahead: a future of hopeful growth

Much like many of TEDCO’s other programs and resources, the FLLIP Pilot Program asks for collaboration. To emphasize this, the roundtable discussion allowed for further discussion as companies that will be affected by the new program shared their stories and renewed hope for their business growth with the announcement of this program.

One individual, Mina Izadjoo, president and chief science officer at Integrated Pharma Services, highlighted their journey from working in the federal laboratories to working in the private sector. “For years, I asked the question, ‘with all this innovation, why nothing happens?’… I cannot tell you how pleased I am that you have closed this gap and are bringing the federal laboratories to private sector… I think the outcome, for years to come, Maryland will benefit for it.”

This sentiment of optimism was reflected around the table as stories continued – that the program will bring about a better ecosystem in Maryland, allowing for more small business growth and development as more innovation is brought to market.

Setting the bar for innovation

As the discussion closed, TEDCO CEO Troy LeMaile-Stovall brought the attention to TEDCO’s slogan–“leading innovation to market.” Highlighting the word ‘to,’ LeMaile-Stovall notes that the earmarked funding Cardin, Van Hollen and Sarbanes supported “helps us make that ‘to’ happen.” With the earmarked funding, TEDCO, in collaboration with FITCI, can support bringing more innovation to the commercial market and continue exploring how Maryland can “lead the country in this type of innovation.”

Watch the discussion in its entirety to learn more about the Pilot Program.

Source: The Daily Record