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Virginia looks to IT startups for tech infusion

Government agencies have historically had trouble getting access to the latest technology that can keep them nimble and forward looking. To tap into small businesses and entrepreneurs, the Department of Defense established Defense Innovation Unit Experimental that aims to accelerate commercial innovation for national defense. Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security uses the Innovation Other Transaction Solicitation to engage non-traditional performers in developing innovative technologies.

At the state level, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently announced a program that would identify and evaluate businesses whose  IT services and expertise could provide value to state agencies.   Selected companies will be invited present their innovations to state agencies.

The program is a partnership between Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology  and the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, which works to connect companies with state agencies.  VITA's Innovation Center of Excellence already holds one to two events a month where interested suppliers demonstrate their technology to agency representatives.

VITA ICE has entered into 15 collaborative partnerships, including partnerships with the University of Virginia on social media and data analytics, the City of Fredericksburg on smart roads and Amherst and Page Counties on distance learning.

“ICE puts these agencies in the room with suppliers, but it doesn’t lead to procurement deals directly,” Virginia CIO Nelson Moe told GCN.  “We are constantly looking for companies to present to us, and we are polling agencies to figure out what they are interested in learning more about.”

The new partnership expands the reach of ICE, an acknowledgement of the importance of innovative startups working on information technologies like big data management and analytics, cybersecurity partnerships and preparations for a driverless future. It also gives small and emerging technology companies a way to start doing business with Virginia government agencies.

“State government often finds it difficult to ‘keep up’ with the pace of innovation, especially in the information technology sector," Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson said. "This new partnership will provide a platform for mutually beneficial information exchange and relationship building.”

CIT runs a number of programs to help fund startup companies in Virginia.  The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority oversees startup investments through a GAP Funds program, a family of seed- and early-stage investment funds and the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund awards grants to  promising technology research and commercialization

The organization also provides assistance to firms involved in the federal Small Business Innovation Research program and runs a cybersecurity accelerator called MACH37.

“We have a specific mission to foster innovation, commercialization, entrepreneurship and implementation across the commonwealth,” CIT's CTO David Ihrie told GCN.  “Part of the rationale for our organization is that a lot of these early-stage companies are where the job creation happens.”

The partnership between VITA and CIT "will connect innovative businesses with potential customers in government agencies who can put their technologies to work making life better for the Virginia families we serve,” McAuliffe said.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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