Homeland Security bringing market-ready cybersecurity projects to vaunted RSA conference

Homeland Security bringing market-ready cybersecurity projects to vaunted RSA conference
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The Department of Homeland Security will showcase a dozen mature technologies at San Francisco's long-running RSA cybersecurity conference next week, hoping to match market-ready products with partners to use them. 

The Transition-to-Practice program is designed to rescue useful federally funded projects from research and development purgatory.

The purgatory is often called the “Valley of Death,” and mature products that enter it are rarely brought to market. 

“Instead of recreating the wheel and restarting the same R&D, we can leverage research that has already been done,” said Nadia Carlsten, program manager at TTP. 

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The program provides advice, funding and opportunity for these technologies, including displaying them at trade events. And the program appears to be working. Carlsten said that eight of the 32 technologies promoted by the program have been successfully transferred to private and public sector groups that are able to use them. 

The current crop includes 11 technologies from national laboratories and one from a federally funded project at the University of North Carolina. 

Carlsten said the DHS was particularly eager to show off its two newest projects, both from Lincoln National Laboratory at MIT: CHARIOT, which filters cybersecurity threat information from social media to reduce the amount of reading system administrators have to do to find useful information, and QUASAR, which shows the impact of different cybersecurity configurations. 

The program is extremely competitive, receiving 80 to 100 applicants a year for eight slots. Its most important functions, said Carlsten, are in mentorship — similar to the advice a tech incubator might provide its companies. 

“In many ways, what we do is very similar to what an accelerator does. We provide some funding, but funding is the least important part of what we do,” she said. 

The program draws heavily from DHS-funded research — eight of the 12 products it will display at RSA were funded by DHS — but it also accepts the fruits of other agencies’ work.  

“The Department of Energy, for example, might not have the bandwidth in cyber to promote these tools,” said Carlsten. 

The current crop of products includes two Energy Department tools. Later this year, TTP will bring both of those to an energy conference in Houston. 

Carlsten says the program is ripe to be adopted by other agencies and — granted the funding to expand — to take on more technologies.

“We have to turn away good applicants. It’s always a very tough process to pick them.”