Security Debrief spoke with Dr. Dave McWhorter, principal of Catalyst Partners, to learn more 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 arena?
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 is 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.
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, we note that Catalyst Partners is a client of Adfero Group’s Homeland Security Strategic Communications Practice.