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Six Md. firms get $450K for tech transfer

After about 10 years and $500,000 in research and development, Joe Foley hopes his explosive-neutralizing technology will be ready to come to market within a year and a half.

Joseph Foley is co-founder of Boonsboro-based ES&T Inc., which is working with the Department of Homeland Security to study detonators.

Foley, who co-founded Boonsboro-based ES&T Inc. in 2005, has been working on the technology since before he started the company.

“We started a long time ago looking at the effect of radio signals on circuitry,” said Foley, a systems engineer who has three decades of experience in robotics.

Foley’s firm is one of six Maryland-based companies that have received a grant through the Maryland Technology Development Corp.’s Joint Technology Transfer Initiative, TEDCO announced Monday.

The grants, worth about $75,000, are awarded to small businesses to collaborate on technologies with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate or the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command. Companies must match the award by 50 percent.

TEDCO has doled out $457,154 of the program’s $825,000 in federal money and is still accepting applications for the five remaining awards. The program started in November 2010, and about 50 companies have applied, said Danielle Davis, spokeswoman for TEDCO.

Though the majority of companies that have applied — and all of the companies that have been granted awards — have been based in the state, the money is open to any company in the country.

“I think that’s says a lot about the tech companies here in Maryland,” said Rob Rosenbaum, president and executive director of TEDCO.

Ultimately, the government agencies select the companies they want to work with, with TEDCO acting as a facilitator, he said.

Foley’s technology is known as MEDUSA, which stands for Mitigate Explosive Devices USA, and uses radio waves to disable electrically-initiated detonators.

“Particularly for businesses that are developing very technical solutions, like the bomb-defusing solution, they have to find a way to partner with the federal government,” Rosenbaum said.

In addition to providing companies with early-stage financing, programs such as the Joint Technology Transfer Initiative often open doors and result in a first customer for businesses, he said.

The award allowed Foley’s firm to work with the Department of Homeland Security to study what happens inside a detonator when it is exposed to a specific sequence of voltage, current and waveforms.

“When you’re selling to the military, they want to see a certain level of technology progression, and an understanding of the science,” Foley said. While he could explain that radio waves were deactivating the devices, the grant allowed for additional research into what was happening inside.

Though Foley’s hoping to have a product ready for field-testing within the next 18 months, the application of the technology will depend on future funding. For now, he and his firm are working to understand how to use the technology to counteract various bombs, particularly improvised explosive devices.

The other grant recipients are TRX Systems Inc., a Greenbelt-based firm, Smart Imaging Systems Inc., based in Beltsville, GenArraytion Inc., based in Rockville, QuickSilver Analytics Inc., based in Abingdon, and Rockville based- BioFactura.

The firms are working on various types of technologies, including biomedical and a personnel tracking device.