The PSCR Pulse Accelerator

The closeout of the NIST PSCR Pulse Accelerator Program last year brings exciting impacts across the board for public safety, with technology-based businesses eager and ready to improve their communications.  

The goal of the virtual Pulse Accelerator, implemented by Tipping Point Solutions and the the Boulder Small Business Development Center Foundation, was to help entities with public safety communication products advance their prototypes toward commercialization. Beginning in March 2020 and running through May 2022, the Pulse Accelerator had three cohorts with 28 business participants total who received assistance from subject matter experts about topics such as building financial projections, assessing their team and human resources plans towards growth, creating and refining their business pitches and other business growth strategies.

PSCR has surveyed the businesses from each round of the Accelerator to capture the impact of the program, such as new jobs created or retained. Several of the businesses highlighted the follow-on funding they’ve received after their participation: 

  • $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA); 
  • $50,000 from Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 and a pending award from National Science Foundation (NSF); and
  • $50,000 from Phase 1 of AFWERX, a Technology Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the innovation arm of the Department Air Force.

Or, as Hang Shi of Innovative AI Technologies LLC, shared, “Thanks to the PULSE Accelerator, the Innovative AI Technologies LLC has won its first SBIR award (about $150,000) from the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

This technical and business development program provided weekly entrepreneurial development for 12 weeks per cohort and helped companies craft their next steps in commercialization. PSCR coordinated interviews between business owners and public safety partners to validate their technology and build industry members’ networks with first responder stakeholders. 

“Businesses generally have a really hard time making connections with first responders and getting feedback,” said Pulse program coordinator Sarah Hughes.  “PSCR connected the business participants with public safety to help innovators better understand the first responders’ communication challenges and how technology can help.” 

The program enabled executive-level managers of a business to meet other professionals who are working to enter the public safety marketplace and receive feedback from one another. Working as a group helped the cohort brainstorm solutions to their most pressing business demands and problems, which wouldn’t have been possible without the Accelerator program. 

“Together, they learned from each other and public safety members about why the public safety technology market is a challenging industry,” said Hughes. “This ultimately helped them build better products with the user in mind.” 

One overarching benefit of the Pulse Accelerator was connecting participants with resources to help them understand the commercialization process better. Some companies brought relatively mature products to the Accelerator and were interested in exploring the public safety market, whereas other participants brought more fundamental research and learned about resources relevant to their Technology Readiness Level. 

Today, most Pulse Accelerator participants are still on their way to commercialization, determining next steps to acquire additional government funding. Many have found success in other nascent industries. Others have pursued opportunities from SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, two of the key federal government funding opportunities for small businesses with innovative technology. While not every product is commercially viable yet, Pulse Accelerator program participants have a far clearer roadmap of where to take their technology next and are many steps closer to putting their products in the hands of first responders. 

A closeout survey in May 2023 will detail additional program impacts related to jobs retained, jobs added, jobs lost, sales, loans, equity, investment, and other businesses financing and capital options.

To learn more about how PSCR supports innovation, be on the lookout in spring 2023 for the program’s Impact Assessment report which will dive into the details of the Pulse Accelerator, in addition to PSCR program impacts from 2017 to 2022. For more information about upcoming program opportunities, be sure to sign up for the PSCR newsletter. 

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