Photo by the NGA
In late March, the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) recognized the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in partnership with the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) as one of two recipients of the “FLC Star of 2023” award for their geospatial technology accelerator.
The NGA Accelerator Powered by Capital Innovators was the first of its kind sponsored by a U.S. intelligence agency. The NGA Accelerator engaged the geospatial ecosystem in the greater St. Louis region and beyond to develop innovations in geospatial technology through collaboration and a transfer of technology and subject matter expertise. By leveraging its presence in the St. Louis area, NGA supported the development of a St. Louis-based innovation program to support small businesses, early-stage high growth potential companies, and entrepreneurs.
Through a competitive application process, 24 startups were selected from nearly 800 applicants to participate in the program, in three cohorts from 2020-2022. In addition to a $100k federally funded grant, each participant engaged with technology-transfer experts and mentors throughout the 13 weeks of programming.
Due to the unique mission of the NGA, identifying startups for potential collaboration, who may be unfamiliar with working with federal agencies, through conventional channels is challenging…By leveraging MTC’s relationship with the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystems, the NGA was able to engage with companies that may have not otherwise been aware of the available opportunities to work with the federal agency. The partnership brought in Capital Innovators, a top-rated St. Louis-based venture fund and accelerator, to run the accelerator programming.
“The Accelerator, which operated from 2020-2022, was a tool that allowed NGA to collaborate with industry through structured engagements outside of the federal acquisition cycle, thereby permitting advanced technology discovery,” said Christine Woodard, Moonshot Labs director. “The Accelerator lowered barriers to entry for small, early-stage companies that are unfamiliar with working with the federal government.”
At the end of each 13-week program, public Pitch Days allowed the companies to showcase their work to members of the intelligence and defense communities as well as individuals from the commercial industry.
A total of $2.4 million was awarded in follow-on contracts to program participants, allowing the NGA to gain exposure to innovative startups and leverage existing investment capital to decrease overall research and development costs.
“NGA’s interest in further evaluating 33% of the participating companies — 8 of 24 — across the three cohorts is a tremendous measure of the Accelerator program’s overall success,” said Higgins. “Research from the Kauffman Fellows Program suggests that accelerator programs lead to partnerships less than 1% of the time.”
Of note, prior to participation in the NGA-MTC Accelerator, all 24 companies reported that they were not engaged with the St. Louis Geospatial Ecosystem, 50% of the 24 companies had minimal to no contact with the NGA and 25% of the 24 companies had minimal to no contact with DOD. After completing the program, 62.5% of the 24 companies reported being moderately to actively engaged in the St. Louis Geospatial Ecosystem, all 24 companies reported being moderately to actively engaged with the NGA, and all 24 companies reported at least occasional contact with DOD entities.