The Commercialization Planning Workshop: Bringing New Corrections Ideas to the Marketplace

By Barone, Cindy | Corrections Today, December 2003 | Go to article overview

The Commercialization Planning Workshop: Bringing New Corrections Ideas to the Marketplace


Barone, Cindy, Corrections Today


Professionals working in any field or with any tool long enough are at some point likely to have an idea for how things could be improved. Unfortunately, most of these ideas are soon forgotten or dismissed as pipe dreams.

Many people have ideas for new or improved technologies or tools, but few take the initiative to act. Why? Because getting an idea to market is time consuming and complicated, and there is no guarantee of success.

For an idea to materialize on store shelves, there is an intimidating succession of hurdles to be crossed. Will the idea even work? Is anyone else doing it already? How is a prototype developed? How is a patent acquired? Will enough be sold to make the idea profitable? Is a partner required? The list could go on. It is easy to see how the process can become overwhelming and stop a good idea in its tracks--that is, if it must be done alone. Fortunately, it does not.

One Place to Get Help

The Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) was established in 1995 by the National Institute of Justice to develop and deploy an active, broad-based, national program to assist in the commercialization of innovative technology for use by the law enforcement and correctional communities. The assistance provided by OLETC is given at no cost to entrepreneurs and technologists.

"We want to discuss your technology with you, perform market research for your technology and, in some cases, 'field test' your technology to determine its effectiveness in the law enforcement and corrections community," said Chief Operating Officer Nick Tomlin.

OLETC examines new concepts that offer technological solutions to national priorities outlined by the Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Council. The council reviews and analyzes the present and future technological needs of the criminal justice system and then advises NIJ's National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center network, which includes OLETC. Council members are appointed based on their records of distinguished service and include representatives from federal, state, local and international criminal justice agencies and organizations.

Nearly 20 years ago, at the request of the Department of Energy, Mohawk Research Corp. (1) developed a process to assist budding entrepreneurs and technologists in getting their ideas to market. Over the years, Mohawk has refined that process.

Commercialization successes for OLETC include a product called the RoadSpike, a retractable spike barrier strip to safely end high-speed vehicular pursuits; an odor inhibitor for use around decomposing bodies; a drug detection device that measures the eye's pupillary response to light stimulus; and a unique security/video system that incorporates sophisticated camera, microphone and recording equipment into a patented car seat system.

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, OLETC has greatly expanded commercialization efforts to include technologies within the broader public-safety arena. More than 100 technologists and entrepreneurs are receiving assistance from OLETC. From a helmet that lets response team members hear their commander's whispered directions to puncture-resistant latex gloves that help prevent the spread of diseases from inmates, OLETC has established itself by providing assistance to technologists in every step of the commercialization process.

In 1997, OLETC contracted with Mohawk to bring its vast experience to the aid of technologists and entrepreneurs whose ideas could benefit the correctional and law enforcement communities. This assistance is delivered through the Commercialization Planning Workshop. The five-day workshop is designed to provide the necessary tools, procedures and information to help participants work through the commercialization process. Each workshop is limited to 12 participants. Among those 12, OLETC strives to have a wide representation of emerging technologies and concepts offering solutions to operational requirements identified by law enforcement and corrections professionals. …

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The Commercialization Planning Workshop: Bringing New Corrections Ideas to the Marketplace
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