The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that Z-senz LLC is awarded with the first NIST Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (N-STEP) grant. Z-senz, a Gaithersburg, MD-based company received $112,000 to develop resonant light detection and ranging (R-LIDAR) electronics for small unmanned aerial vehicles.

“The N-STEP program was created to encourage entrepreneurship among motivated NIST researchers and grow new companies around the NIST facilities. ,” said John Wasilisin, president and chief operating officer of TEDCO.  “The program grants will support commercialization of innovative technologies from NIST and help build sustainable companies that will create jobs, including near the NIST main campus.”

“This program is an important part of our efforts to ensure technology is transferred from federal labs to the marketplace,” said Willie E. May, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST director. “Many talented researchers spend time at NIST and we want to encourage them to apply what they’ve learned or developed here to create thriving technology-based businesses.”

N-STEP, launched last November in collaboration with TEDCO and NIST, is focused on the commercialization of research that has been performed by NIST researchers who may be interested in forming companies to independently pursue technologies that can be commercialized as products or services to benefit the public. The program makes grants to these companies to move technologies further along the commercialization pathway, increase the company’s value, and lead to follow-on investment and job creation.

Z-senz’ technology, resonant light detection and ranging (R-LIDAR) distance sensing enables high performance, miniature, and low cost distance sensing useful for applications such as surveying, construction, defense, and robotic and autonomous systems. The optical technique used in the R-LIDAR system differs from techniques used in state-of-the-art systems (e.g., beam scanning and “flash” LIDARs), allowing for different and superior instrumentation attributes including low cost, high performance, and low size, weight, and power consumption. Customer interviews indicate that these attributes have particular value for distance sensors used in small-unmanned aerial vehicles (S-UAVs). The N-STEP grant will allow Z-senz to miniaturize R-LIDAR electronics instrumentation for these applications, a necessary development step to move R-LIDAR technology from the optical lab towards real-world commercialization.

“This award from N-STEP is a critical infusion of funds toward our on-going development and commercialization activities,” said Chris Brown, co-founder of Z-senz. “In addition to seed funding, TEDCO is providing access to its Executive Coaches and allowing us to network with Maryland’s entrepreneurial community.”

N-STEP program general guidelines and Request-for-Applications (RFA) can be found on the TEDCO website. Entrepreneurs interested in applying for the fund may contact Ron Kaese, Program Manager, by phone at 410-715-4170 or by email at


TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corporation, enhances economic empowerment growth through the fostering of an inclusive entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. TEDCO identifies, invests in, and helps grow technology and life science-based companies in Maryland. Learn more at

Media Contact
Tammi Thomas, Chief Development & Marketing Officer, TEDCO,