US Department of Homeland Security Turns to Blockchain Start-ups for Anti-Counterfeiting Measures

US Department of Homeland Security

In a press release on Tuesday (December 4th), the US Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will offer grants of up to $800,000 to blockchain start-ups. The funding, which comes under the umbrella of “Preventing Forgery and Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses,” is looking to blockchain-based firms to tackle the issue with the new technology.

To qualify, businesses must be small enough to have a head count of under 200, and they must not have engaged in another government contract of $1 million or over in the last 12 months. The funding will come through the Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) in four stages and will be non-dilutive funding. This means that eligible companies don’t need to be selling equity to qualify.

The initiative is being driven by the Science & Technology division of the Department of Homeland Security. The Managing Director, Melissa Oh, said in the press release, “SVIP is a bridge between the early-stage start-up community and the Homeland Security Enterprise. DHS needs the innovations coming from this community to ensure we are at least a step ahead of national security threats. By releasing this solicitation, we are asking the innovation community to contribute to this work through the application of commercial solutions to homeland security use-cases”.

As the statement and initiative were released in conjunction with Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Transportation Security Administration, the focus is on specific areas to which companies must adhere if they wish to qualify. These are Identity Documents for Travel, Identity of Organizations and Organizational Delegates, Tribal Identity Documents for Travel, Citizenship, Immigration, and Employment Authorization, Cross-Border Oil Import Tracking and the Origin of Raw Material Imports.

The Science & Technology SVIP Technical Director, Anil John, said, “The broad Homeland Security mission includes the need to issue entitlements, licenses, and certifications for a variety of purposes including travel, citizenship, employment eligibility, immigration status, and supply chain security. Understanding the feasibility and utility of using Blockchain and distributive ledger technology for the digital issuance of what are currently paper-based credentials is critical to preventing their loss, destruction, forgery, and counterfeiting.”

As it stands, potential applicants and the project as a whole are scheduled for discussion on December 11th, at a Menlo Park, CA industry day. The actual call for firms is open until May 2019, though. Potential applicants should read the complete document and get a form by visiting the website.

This is yet another potential victory for blockchain as it continues to be noticed and adopted by the mainstream. It may well be that it is the underlying technology that drags crypto along with it next year, rather than the other way around, especially given the current ongoing issue with the fall in price across the crypto market.