Frank Backes, president of C-TRAC, stands in the center’s space at Catalyst Campus, which is split based on security clearance.
Frank Backes, president of C-TRAC, stands in the center’s space at Catalyst Campus, which is split based on security clearance.

The Catalyst Campus is only a few weeks from its scheduled June 14 grand opening, yet one tenant — the Center for Technology, Research and Commercialization — has been hard at work since it launched in November.

C-TRAC, the nonprofit technology transfer arm of the campus, is establishing partnerships meant to bridge the gap between the government and commercial worlds.

According to C-TRAC President Frank Backes, the tech transfer component will allow the Department of Defense and the intelligence community to securely move work to private-sector industries for commercialization, as well as allow commercial industries to share technology with the DoD and intelligence community.

For instance, C-TRAC is working with a team in Colorado Springs to build and deploy a commercial implementation of the Air Force’s satellite control network.

“That research and development will be done on Catalyst Campus,” Backes said. “The prime contractor is a member of the campus and there are several [C-TRAC] partners on that team.”

The center acts as a conduit for a range of entities, Backes said — from defense and governmental, to small but established businesses, to corporations and startups. The organization will also work closely with the Colorado Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which assists companies in landing government contracts.

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“PTAC will tell you what you need, and we will show you what to do and how to do it,” he said, adding C-TRAC will mentor and consult with companies interested in acquiring local, state and federal contracts. “A commercial software company may have no background, experience or expertise in acquiring a government contract.”

In addition to the technology transfer and consultation components, C-TRAC will also support organizational research and development, including industries with no need for a security clearance all the way to a secure area facilitating top-secret R&D, Backes said.

‘100 disparate folks’

The Air Force Academy is already signed on as a C-TRAC partner. Via a recently signed Partnership Intermediary Agreement, C-TRAC will act independently and support the Academy in assembling its planned cyber innovation center project teams, streamlining an otherwise expensive, cumbersome and drawn-out process.

“We may work through 10 to 12 projects per year and each might take on 10 industry partners,” said Dr. James Solti, chief scientist at the Academy. “If I have to do 10 projects with 10 industry partners each, that’s 100 disparate folks negotiating intellectual property and investment strategies. It’s impossible and would take years to do that through standard government contracting.”

Solti said C-TRAC will meet with and negotiate terms with partners so when they join forces, the only thing left to do is focus on the task at hand.

For instance, the Academy is creating a cyber threat dashboard used to convey highly technical information to decision-makers who lack cyber backgrounds. It is relying on C-TRAC to identify a handful of industry partners that can provide subject matter expertise. Solti said taking a traditional, bureaucratic route would mean up to a year and a half to get the pieces in place.

“We hope now, rather than months and years, we’re looking at weeks,” he said.

Disruptions within the cyber world happen constantly, Solti added, and that’s why increased flexibility is vital for governmental and defense entities, which previously had to struggle with the snail’s pace of bureaucracy.

“We’ll explore new paradigms on how to partner and identify capabilities to create better solutions more rapidly,” he said.

Hundreds of jobs

“This will create a whole bunch of new companies or opportunities for new companies,” said Erin Miller, managing director and technology transfer program manager for C-TRAC. “Within the next five years, as it becomes more successful, C-TRAC will influence the creation of hundreds of jobs, [and] that’s modest.”

Backes said that will partially be accomplished by bringing research and development projects to Colorado Springs from across the country.

“We want them working here instead of somewhere else,” he said. “That’s in our charter. And in the process of doing that, we’re generating tremendous numbers of jobs and revenue. Our goal is to connect companies that are here in the Springs much more quickly to customer revenue.”

Startups in particular can find it difficult to land their first government contract, Backes said, but through Catalyst Campus, they have access to a physical location and a building filled with expertise.

“It’s a new paradigm,” he said of the government and defense industries simplifying projects through civilian collaboration. “In the time it would take just to do [a project] acquisition, we will actually have a solution.”

And Colorado Springs offers the perfect environment for an undertaking like C-TRAC, Miller said.

“Being in Colorado Springs is important because you have to have the right … motivation from the community to support small business, and there has to be an understanding of how government operates,” she said. “There’s definitely a cultural difference between industry and government.”