TIDE program positions North Carolina as the "Frontline of the Future" for the federal government

DEFTECH "Tech Scouting" program, or TIDE, helps North Carolina businesses and academia get their technology in front of the federal government, bringing money into the state and keeping the government on pace for technological advancement.

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By Abbey Slattery, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Military Business Center.

North Carolina is home to a diverse innovation ecosystem, from startups to international corporations. DEFTECH, or the Defense Technology Transition Office, launched the TIDE program to help North Carolina businesses and academia leverage innovation for national security opportunities.

The TIDE program — an acronym for Technology, Innovation, Demonstration and Experimentation — is a strategic approach dedicated to connecting the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security’s technology needs and the capabilities of state businesses and universities. The result is collaboratively working to provide critical technology solutions to solve Warfighter’s current and future needs.

“There is a demand for these unique and emerging technologies, these leap-ahead technologies that provide exponential capabilities for our warfighters versus incremental capability. If you look across the technology landscape, we’re in a strategic competition right now, and there’s never been a greater need for North Carolina innovation to support the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security agencies looking to acquire these cutting-edge technologies,” said Bob Burton, senior manager at DEFTECH. “We provide opportunities for businesses to submit a four-block quad chart, then we help the businesses position themselves in front of potential customers or DoD agencies not to sell anything — that’s where this is a paradigm shift: they are not selling anything, they are providing solutions.”

Providing this shift means upfront collaboration between businesses producing technologies and their federal customers. Through TIDE, key stakeholders from both sides — government and the commercial/academic sectors — offer input, discuss the actual problem and work towards better solutions.

“Finding the technology is easy because there’s enough of it out there, particularly in North Carolina. Still, for us, it’s about getting it into the hands of the Warfighters earlier, so they can give their input and influence the next iteration of the development. The pace of technology advancement is fast, so if you don’t have those Warfighter touchpoints, you could be building something that a soldier may not need,” said Rob Robinson, a former Lieutenant Colonel and current strategic industry professional for the North Carolina Military Business Center. “Another significant touchpoint, when businesses produce something new and improved, the government will be informed the entire time.”

The TIDE program requests a four-block quad chart for businesses and academia interested in pursuing an opportunity. The quad chart must discuss what problem they are trying to solve, the solution, the technology readiness level (TRL), the commercial and government use (dual-use) and the Warfighter “payoff” of the technology.

TIDE is designed in four phases, with the quad chart serving as a tech scouting approach being phase one. The following phases include collaborating with federal innovation outreach offices to share technology approaches within the state, aligning TIDE events with federal opportunities, presenting relevant technology areas to a panel of government experts at the Technology Solutions Briefs (TSB) meetings and attending an annual event to demonstrate and network with military operators.

TIDE hopes to get technology companies involved that may have never worked with the federal government before by assisting them with the simplified government acquisition processes for rapidly acquiring new technologies.

Traditional federal acquisition processes can be daunting, so DEFTECH offers specific resources to help throughout the process — including a podcast called “Defense Technology Talks,” weekly Coffee Call discussions and the Mobilize Community platform and LinkedIn to share information regularly. The DEFTECH Value Proposition offers unique services at no cost to North Carolina companies and academic institutions.

“DEFTECH conducts routine podcasts with both industry and senior military leaders looking for technologies to solve problems across the spectrum, AI, Autonomy, Hypersonics, Cyber, Textiles and even construction, to name a few. We talk with small businesses in the state and have built a repository of data that people can access anytime they want. It’s easily accessible and free information,” said Robinson.  “That’s one of the things that’s significant about working for the State.  We’re not trying to get money from anyone to promote.  We’re continuing to produce information to allow people to have opportunities to learn because that’s one of the most challenging problems in dealing with the government — just knowing who to talk to and having the right and the most current information due to all the changes.”

TIDE is focused on synergizing its resources to build this holistic system and process. DEFTECH continually works to enhance its data tracing abilities to understand federal technology needs better and create external partnerships that draw more business into the state.

TIDE leverages the unique innovation ecosystem in North Carolina and helps make DEFTECH’s future goals possible — not to mention mutually beneficial.

“When you provide a solution through your pitch, your technology and your one-page white paper, the world of the federal marketplace is wide open. You can submit for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), you can submit for an OTA or request for proposal (RFP)— you gain access to multiple agencies, and it all starts from that one-page quad chart and white paper,” said Burton. “There’s so much happening in technology, and we want to stay ahead of the threat to help our government remain on pace. The TIDE program does not cost anything, and DEFTECH provides connections and relationships as a resource to our North Carolina companies and universities.”

Through education, outreach, networking and liaison, DEFTECH enables elements of the NC innovation ecosystem to address complex national security problems through government funding opportunities using simplified acquisition processes.

This article was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Military Business Center.

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