Dec 3, 2009

Dr. Dave McWhorter, principal of Catalyst Partners, speaks about the new Catalyst Homeland Security Technologies Assessment practice.

Why has Catalyst Partners created this dedicated practice? Why is it important? Why now?
One of our frustrations is when we come across a technology that is a
great solution to a security problem and we ask: Why didn’t we know
about this sooner? With the proper assessments of technologies at
earlier phases in their development cycle, the right ones can be
tailored to specific needs and taken to decision-makers sooner.
Recently, we realized that the discovery of new, dual-use, or even
established technologies is a core part of our value proposition, but
many people did not realize we had this capability. That is why we
wanted to create a publicly visible conduit for companies with homeland
security-relevant technologies and “triage” them for the homeland
security marketplace.

What are some of the strategies Catalyst will use to take
innovative technologies from the laboratory to the public/private HS

It depends, of course. Some companies need help identifying a CEO. Some
companies need financing before they can do anything. Some just need an
introduction to DHS and how they differ from, for example, the
Department of Defense. Our goal is to align the technology with a
specific need within the security community, whether with DHS or as a
partnership with our other clients. Once opportunities have been
identified, we can also serve as a part of the “capture team” to help
land the business. Another important aspect of most business
development strategies is to know when to work with Capitol Hill and
when it would be a waste of time.

What are some of the homeland security technologies on the
horizon and in what public/private HS areas do you think new
technologies are needed?

The needs often come and go depending on the last event that gets news
coverage. Piracy, for instance, was a hot topic early this year, then
faded until recently. A good counter to any threat will be viewed as
valuable as long as it is effective and cost-effective. No one wants to
buy and mothball a million dollar piece of equipment “just in case.”

In our discussions with DHS and Capitol Hill officials, we know they
are concerned about the human threat (i.e., human-borne IEDs or gunmen)
at soft targets, securing maritime cargo and border security,
especially at the vast northern border. Cyber security will always be a
moving target. But what’s on the horizon? That’s what we want to
know…and that is a principal reason we are making people aware of our
technology assessment practice.

How does Catalyst’s offering differ from other HS government/public affairs firms?
We are a relatively small firm, but we have significant depth in many
areas across homeland security. We have the flexibility to talk and
brainstorm with clients without their having to worry about accounting
for every billable hour. We usually spend several hours over several
meetings with potential clients to map out an overarching strategy
before recommending a course of action. Our flexibility is also a
benefit internally. We have subject matter experts in almost every area
of homeland security who we can tap into as part of our team approach.

How will your past experience support this new practice?
One area in which we have particularly deep expertise in the SAFETY Act.
The SAFETY Act was designed, in part, to encourage the development of
anti-terrorism technologies (via certain liability protections). As a
result, many of my SAFETY Act clients are small firms with new
technologies, so pairing business strategy with liability protection
makes sense. While we are not a law firm and don’t render legal advice,
we tell our clients that they can get as good an understanding of the
impact of SAFETY Act protections as they might get from a much larger
(and generally more expensive) lobbying or law firm.

This article was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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