New SBIR Program Funding Puts Nimble Small Businesses to Work on Solving Key Homeland Security Concerns


In the face of escalating cyber threats, the DHS Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR program, has awarded $3.15 million to 20 small businesses, each tasked with tackling one of seven key homeland security technology needs. This initiative is a crucial move in the ongoing battle against cybercrime. The program, which has been around since 1982, gives small businesses the opportunity to work with larger organizations and government agencies to develop new solutions in each focus area.

The seven areas to be addressed include: Accurate and Real-time Hardware-assisted Detection of Cyber Attacks; Air Cargo Manifest Analysis to Aid Screeners; First Responder Credentialing; Machine Learning Based Integration of Alarm Resolution Sensors; Mission Critical Services Server-to-Server Communication, Voice Communications, 3GPP-Standards; Reduced Order Modeling of Critical Infrastructure Protect Surfaces; Theoretical Classification Methodologies to Enable Detection with Predicted Signatures.

In Phase I of the program, each of the 20 companies will receive up to $150,000 from SBIR to conduct proof-of-concept research over a five-month period. Following the completion of the first phase of research, the chosen businesses will be eligible to submit proposals for a Phase II award, aimed at developing and demonstrating a working prototype.

Progress in each area is important, but some areas are higher priorities than others, and small businesses have a unique opportunity to make significant contributions.  Mike Saylor, CEO of Blackswan Cybersecurity and Professor of Cybersecurity at The University of Texas at San Antonio, offers his insights into which of the seven research areas are most important, as well as how the strengths of small businesses are especially needed to improve in each area.

Mike’s Thoughts:

“Well, all of these topics are important, but from a cybersecurity perspective, which is the world I live in, the accurate real-time hardware assisted detection of cyberattacks seems to be a good priority to focus on. Cyber attacks are ever increasing and becoming more sophisticated, so the more capable we are effectively and timely identifying those attacks, the better.

Coupling that with a couple of these other research topics, like machine learning based integration for alarm resolution sensors, helping cut down false positives, being a force multiplier for cybersecurity analysts, and then anything related to critical infrastructures is pretty high on the list, so the order modeling of critical infrastructure protect surfaces. I think it’s also pretty high on the list, a good priority, especially given the state of our country’s critical infrastructure and the need to improve in those areas.

The SBIR program has been around for a while. I participated in in the SBIR program for several years and it’s a great program for small businesses to become involved with the get integrated or introduced with the government programs and different government agencies.

But it’s also a great way for small businesses that may be more nimble, more creative, and larger organizations to work together more collaboratively to come up with some innovative ideas, and then work with those larger organizations to try and facilitate, conceptualize, those ideas and a working model, and work with those large organizations that maybe have the experience of taking something from theoretical paper-based narrative into a working prototype.”

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