Homeland security idea could earn $25,000

BUSINESS DIGEST

September 08, 2006|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

Got a hot new homeland security idea? You could win $25,000.

That's the top prize in a contest organized by Anne Arundel's homeland security business incubator, which hopes to attract proposals from across the country. The launch of the Defend America Challenge commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but coordinators plan to make it an annual event.

"We're expecting a pretty substantial response," said Laura Neuman, interim executive director of the Chesapeake Innovation Center in Annapolis, which dubbed itself the first homeland security incubator in the nation when it formed in 2003. "We're looking for innovative technology companies in various stages of development."

The center will take applications with three-page executive summaries from the entrepreneurs through Nov. 15. Organizers will pick 25 companies to submit a full business plan and will choose six finalists from that group. Those companies will compete before a panel of judges and an audience in January.

Cash and other prizes will also be awarded to the first runner-up, though the value has not been decided. The center expects to unveil a Web site for the event today at defendamericachallenge.com.

The center, which has 13 early-stage companies in residence and two affiliated firms, aims to help develop companies and also to funnel new technology to its partners, which include the National Security Agency, defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. and Annapolis-based ARINC Inc. The contest could further both goals, Neuman said.

"It is a natural outgrowth of what we're already doing," she said.

Judges will include John M. Belcher, chairman and chief executive of ARINC, a transportation communications and systems engineering company that does homeland security work.

"This will be interesting, to see how well it does," said Linda Hartwig, a spokeswoman for the company, one of the county's largest employers. "Quite often, contests spur a lot of really great thinking."

The $25,000 grand prize, she said, is "a nice motivation - that's for sure."

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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