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South Florida + Defense Tech | Dual Use - Part 2
A Blueprint for Economic Growth......US Southern Command
South Florida needs a new center of gravity to help sustain, grow and secure one of the largest economic regions in the nation. We all play a part in the opportunity. Long are the days of creating businesses with one purpose. The future is dual purpose. The speed and complexity of technology forces us to scale practical solutions across the private and public arenas. Timing is everything. We need practical solutions, not nice to have solutions. The entry points lie in technology partnerships with US Southern Command and the higher educational systems in South Florida.
We must remember without economic security, the lifestyles and comforts we have today would cease to exist.
South Florida is ripe for a catalyst. The defense eco-system can be the accelerator. The fragmented approach today will not be the way forward. Success includes accelerated economic expansion, increased talent pools, enablement of educational institutions, innovation in new technologies, and broader engagement with the communities.
A defense ecosystem in the United States refers to the interconnected network of government entities, private sector companies, academic institutions, and research organizations, all collaboratively engaged in the creation, development, production, and refinement of defense technologies, strategies, policies, and solutions. It encompasses a wide range of components, including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Armed Forces, defense contractors, suppliers, research and development institutions, and think tanks, all operating symbiotically to ensure the nation's security and military superiority.
The collaboration between government agencies, private firms, and academic institutions within the defense ecosystem fuels innovation and technological advancements in defense-related fields. The benefit to the community is job growth, attraction of larger government contracting companies and the development of exported technologies from South Florida which provides the stickiness to keep the money flows in Florida.
Lastly, with the shifting of global supply chains, reshoring/nearshoring play significant roles of the future. The benefactor will be South Florida. The move from Asia represents significant opportunity for innovators, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and new trade agreements. We have the unique opportunity to build new things closer to home and own the larger pieces of the supply chain.
Here is a snapshot of the Florida defense industry…
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The Why — Timing is Everything
National security to maintain economic and technical leadership.
If you don’t secure it, you lose it.
New market for the private sector businesses.
Untapped funding sources and talent for no equity stakes. Tap the Veterans.
Increased jobs and tax revenue for the local economy.
Southeast Florida has a declining economic impact from defense. Let’s reverse it.
Enhancement of the current tech hub status for Phase 2 and beyond.
Go beyond “climate” to build multiple centers of innovation.
The How — Start with Southern Command
Leverage Southern Command as an Innovation Center.
US Southern Command is one of six global commands for the US military. Leveraging the location, leadership and vision can accelerate the development of core new technologies which can be used globally. Engagement provides visibility of the region at the federal level. Additionally, you would have international scope with the 31 countries they partner with for import/export of technologies. Economic power plays a big role in the new world order.
They are looking for private partners in the following areas: Solar Powered ISR, Advanced Robotics, Medical Research, Manned and Unmanned Teaming, High Altitude Sensors, Maritime Unmanned Sensors, 3D printing, Satellite Communications.
Centers of Gravity for Knowledge Transfer
Based on several factors, South Florida is prime for scaling private public partnerships.
1.) There are over 60+ consulates and international trade organizations in South Florida which presents opportunities for tech collaboration and an influx of ideas. You have easy access to most of our friendly country alliances. Ideal for launching country alliances 5, 9, and 14 eyes programs.
2.) You have handfuls of tech innovation programs, organizations, accelerators, venture bridges, labs and clubs within the community which provide facilities, technology and funding to jointly innovate. Ideal for growing and scale.
3.) You have a centralized data/communications hub. You will need compute power to make this work. Ideal for launching AI + Cyber programs.
4.) You have a large talent pool with universities, regional and corporate headquarters, and a state with friendly business policies. Ideal for funding, commercialization, incubation and R&D.
University Research and Entrepreneur Partnerships
There are pockets of advanced research being done in South Florida. All grants and government money will need research partnerships. FIU is doing this with the Public Policy and Engineering Schools. NSU has space and navy programs. University of Miami is doing this with DOD resiliency initiatives. Couple this with the schools’ entrepreneur programs and you get a recipe for new ideas and mindsets for the future. The federal government is providing these schools grants for development. New grants will need new research partners.
VCs focused on National Security, Dual Use and Defense.
Companies need money and pathways to the government. There are limited VC firms covering this niche market. Stony Lonesome was one of the first. There are even less who have the expertise and pedigree form government services. Their sister company, Pathfinder Solution Group provides roads to the government contracts. Both are based in Florida. More will be needed.
The Impact — Why the People Care
Revenue For the Cities and County — $$
The data below suggests a low percentage of economic impact today for Southeast Florida (3.6%). Increasing this percentage by a couple of points could bring billions of needed revenues. Additionally, this helps the money stick in South Florida vs the historical touch and go. Innovation centers create billions of dollars of economic activity through combinations of private and public funding sources which attract government contracting organizations as well as supporting companies.
Workforce Development — Jobs and More Small Business
The scaling of the workforce is top of mind. A defense ecosystem provides more high paying tech jobs which are grown organically vs a move of a corp HQ location. Both are important, but you want to build organically to have long term impact. Building the defense tech and dual use ecosystem pulls higher value jobs, provides access to government contracts for small businesses and strengthens the community. Focusing on local sourcing and manufacturing provides opportunity for new businesses to be created. Additionally, the defense ecosystem helps bridge the Veteran community with the private sector. Veterans possess highly trained skills and provide much needed leadership to scale.
Upskilling and Tech Exporter — New Tech, New Branding
Leadership requires innovation of new technologies for exporting domestically and internationally. This could be started with Latin America by leveraging Southern Command’s presence, leadership and connectivity to the Americas region. Additionally, subject matter experts from around the country will enable an increase of technology transfer to local regional leaders. This will serve as a force multiplier to build new technology centers of gravity for South Florida. These new technologies are critical for global leadership. As an example, South Florida can accel in AI + Cyber technologies, Bio tech around contested logistics, Advanced materials for manufacturing, Space technologies for communication, and renewable energy technologies.
In fact, some of these are already happening in South Florida through the universities.
Cold Spray Additive Project at Florida International University School of Engineering
XREEFS Project at University of Miami
China Competition Project for Latin America and the Caribbean at Florida Institute of Public Policy
AI Center at Maimi Dade College
Expanding these types of projects across the 10+ colleges and universities in the region would fuel the engines and help build new centers of gravity. Building stronger innovation partnerships with US Southern Command represent great starting points for next generation technologies in South Florida. Economic growth follows these two things……
God Bless America!