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DIU Adds New Venture Funding Pool for Defense Technology Startups

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Written by Jackson Burnett September 13, 2021 | FEDSCOOP

The Defense Innovation Unit has added a new source of venture funding for defense technology start-ups to the Innovation Tools ecosystem.

National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) is a program aimed at funding hardware startups to build technologies that may help governments. It looks for companies that need additional funding to get going and make investments. This hopes to inspire private sector groups to add cash flow to selected companies.

NSIC provides a new source of funding for defense technology start-ups seeking to work with the Department of Defense. Currently, DIU uses other trading authority contracts primarily to match funds with companies.

The new fund pool supports so-called “dual-use” startups. It provides technology that can be deployed not only in the military but also in a wider range of commercial industries.

NSIC is an important new initiative in expanding public-private partnerships to strengthen the foundation of national security innovation, “said Team Director Tex Schenkkan.

The team will focus on hardware companies that make up about 30% of the venture-backed startup market. Many companies need to look at foreign investment to get going. This can disqualify them from future work with the government and even expose them to IP theft.

“NSIC is an important part of accelerating new commercial technologies to DoD,” said DIU Director Michael Brown. Financing innovative dual-use technology to improve national security is important in strategic competition with China and provides the military with the best technology.

The NSIC idea first emerged by Brown in a treatise he wrote about China while serving as Presidential Innovation Fellow. China has been accused of pouring money, or “hostile capital,” into startups to prevent future work with the US government.

This effort seeks to solve a problem similar to the one caused by acquisitions and maintenance, called the Trusted Capital Digital Marketplace. That effort does not provide startups with government money. Instead, it scrutinizes “trustworthy” capital providers and connects them to startups enthusiastic about a day’s work with the government.

“Our efforts are complementary, but very different. NSIC’s support assumes that the recipient’s existing funding comes from a reliable source,” Shenkan said. Told Fed Scoop in a statement. “The condition of NSIC support is the company’s commitment to not accept future funding from hostile sources.”

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