Even before COVID-19, it was clear that more technological innovation was needed in the public safety world. Billions of dollars in research and development funding has been provided in both the public and private sector to address advancements required for the first responder community. While these top-down resources are vital to nurturing and scaling-up technologies, a broader network is needed to connect entrepreneurs, government officials, academic researchers, and investors in a meaningful way.
Notably, this approach needs to be nimble, and, to the extent possible, localized. One thing has been clear from COVID-19, and that is the national interest in developing new technologies and resources that can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the future. While COVID-19 is front and center currently, this same logic can be extended to first responder technology innovation more generally. We need entrepreneurs and technologists empowered to tackle these challenges and put them in the hands of end-users at a rapid pace. For this to happen sustainably, we need regional leadership, working collaboratively but not overly relying on federal guidance, that can highlight critical needs and work with innovators to find solutions.
Why is building this type of locally driven network necessary for public safety innovation? Research on technology development has revealed that entrepreneurs and researchers do not identify opportunities in isolation but are embedded in social relationships and networks of resource providers. These relationships have been shown to rely on the right balance of capital, talent, and mentorship. Thus, reliance on national mandates and funding mechanisms runs the risk of fully capturing the resources required to support technology development and entrepreneurs as proposed. While these programs optimistically can be viewed as “if you build it, they will come” initiatives, the exact opposite could be true. We could be pouring money into programs aimed at innovation that will vanish once government resources are removed.
Instead, we need to build a national network that leverages the strengths of the public and private sectors. We need to build up our financial resources through both public and private investment, which can boost R&D efforts across the country. We need national leaders willing to loosen control over innovation and allow entrepreneurs to drive innovation in public safety, allowing local entrepreneurial environments to grow autonomously. We need local leaders ready to lead policy changes that may be required to enhance public safety technologies. We need public investment in critical infrastructure and favorable business and tax policies that can help boost entrepreneurial endeavors. In short, we need more collaboration to drive our innovation needs.
These are issues driving our changes at Safe Tech, and why we believe Public Safety Needs a New Look. We’re engaging leaders across public safety to find new ways to bring innovative solutions to the market. Our technology roadshows and regional technology pitch competitions are designed to connect the diverse set of first responder communities with entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, and public officials. This will drive the type of innovation network we need in this area. National policy and funding can only take innovation so far – the country needs a bottom-up approach to developing life-changing tech for the public safety personnel who make sacrifices every day to serve us all.
This will require innovation of all stripes – technological innovation, policy innovation, and networking innovation that can foster a national ecosystem that is conducive to technology research and development in the public safety space.
We’re dedicated to making this dream a reality – won’t you join us?
Thanks for reading. Have a happy and safe 4th of July from the Safe Tech team.