Research Transition

General Introduction to Research Transition

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate’s organizational revitalization of October 2018 included the formation of the Office of Science & Engineering (OSE) which, among others, has a division responsible for Technology Scouting & Transition (refer to S&T org chart).

Technology Scouting (TS) refers to the front-end horizon scanning process conducted before a Research & Development (R&D) project is initiated in response to meeting an expressed operational need or requirement. Technology Transition (TR) is the process by which the results of the R&D effort are developed and productized in a manner that enables their use by the operational component that motivated the R&D due to its unmet need/requirement. TR ensures the results of the R&D project are developed in a manner that enables their rapid integration in operational improvements and/or their commercialization. S&T’s new operating process for R&D initiation and execution, shown in the accompanying figure, tightly integrates the technology scouting (TS) and technology transition (TR) components before the initiation of, and during the execution of the R&D.  TS is prominent during the “Understanding Needs” portion of the model, and once the R&D project enters the execution phase, then TR assumes a more prominent role.

The importance of TS and TR has thus been recognized so that before initiating an R&D effort, S&T requires that technology scouting and transition analyses be conducted.  The TS efforts identify existing, commercially available solutions that meet, or can be relatively easily adapted to meet, the expressed operational requirements of the DHS Components. If the Technology Scouting effort determines the operational need/requirement cannot be met, then a Transition-Up-Front Plan is prepared, and along with consideration of other factors, only then is the R&D project carried out, producing results, which are then readily available for transition.

As can be seen by the multiple instances of TR in the S&T’s operating model, R&D results/outcomes transition is considered throughout the process, from the early stages of understanding the operational need, through the conduct of the R&D, and ultimately at the end of the process in the delivery of capability to operational units.  Specific S&T activities distributed along the analysis process flow are,

  • TR support for the gap analysis to explore initial transition pathways
  • TR support for the R&D project manager and solution analysis team for transition options
  • Identify data needs for transition support
  • Define and refine transition path as R&D solution evolves
  • As R&D solution firms up, develop transition team and first stage transition plan
  • Identify, down-select and contact transition solution providers
  • Initiate execution of transition plan
  • Test, verify and validate transition solutions
  • Deploy transition and collect data on metrics and measures keyed to transition plan

Research Transition by Other Government Agencies (OGAs)

Research transition is variably called technology transfer, commercialization, spin-off formation, etc., and each of these terms has unique implications about its characteristics, metrics and measures for success. All government agencies funding R&D are highly interested in the process of research transition. In addition to DHS, the most visible among these other government agencies include the Department of Defense (DOD, especially DARPA), Department of Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), etc. A typical project-to-product process is shown in the figure below.


DHS S&T classifies the output of its R&D projects as tools, technologies or knowledge products (TTKPs). R&D is carried out at S&T under several program offices, such as the Office of Mission & Capability Support (OMCS), and the Office of Innovation & Collaboration (OIC). The DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs), reporting under University Programs within OIC, have developed over 200 applied TTKPs stemming from their research efforts. These TTKPs offer the potential to improve operational efficiencies and decision-making by components of DHS and law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S.
CREATE has developed and contributed many valuable TTKPs that have successfully transitioned, summarized here, for example,

  • Assistant for Randomized Monitoring over Routes (ARMOR/IRIS/PROTECT) – ARMOR is the original game theory-based software that randomizes schedules, plans, or actions for security agencies. ARMOR was successfully deployed at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for randomized scheduling of LAX police and canine patrols, then adapted to IRIS by the TSA FAMS for scheduling federal air marshals on international flights, and subsequently modified, expanded, and used by the U.S. Coast Guard as PROTECT for randomizing sea resources on its Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security (PWCS) patrols.
  • Economic Consequence Analysis Tool (E-CAT) – E-CAT provides rapid economic consequence estimates for numerous threats, including terrorism, natural disasters, and technological accidents, in a user-friendly software package. E-CAT can help policy-makers evaluate the magnitude of various potential threats to enable decisions on how to allocate budgets across interdiction, mitigation, and resilience options.
  • MANPADS – MANPADS is a model for evaluating the installation of countermeasures, such as electronic devices, on commercial aircraft to defend against surface-to-air missile attacks by terrorists.  The model takes into account alternative modes of attack, probabilities of success, and consequences to the economy, and enables decision-making on the benefit of improved risk (lower risk of a successful MANPADS attack) versus the expenditures of funds for installation and maintenance of countermeasures.