FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The fledgling Defense and Science Technology Accelerator received a $1.08 million boost this week when a defense appropriation bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The funds, which will be formally approved when the bill passes in the Senate, provide for the creation of a wireless fidelity (WiFi) communications research lab to be created at the DTSA (pronounced “dista”). The money also raises its profile as a home for new businesses, according to the long-time U.S. Army Special Forces veteran hired to run the center, which will serve as a new business incubator.

“This is a major milestone,” Scott Perry, DSTA’s general manager, said. “It’s significant with regard to our recruitment. It provides entrepreneurs considering the incubator here that there is considerable interest and support in this program.”

Congressman Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) sought the funding. Specifics on how the money is to be spent are still to be determined, Perry added.

The building that will house the DTSA is still being upfitted, but Perry is putting together his staff and several companies are already seeking space, including some that could benefit from the WiFi lab.

“Eight companies have already applied,” Perry said. “There are some pretty interesting folk.”

The DSTA is envisioned as being the hub for the growth of high-tech, defense oriented companies that either work with the military and intelligence agencies to commercialize technology or develop products and technology that the Pentagon and others can use.

Fayetteville’s Partnership for Defense Innovation and the North Carolina Technology Association backed the DSTA concept, winning initial funding from the North Carolina General Assembly. The incubator is overseen by the Partnership.

The DSTA will provide business incubator services, space and some funding. The WiFi center will be one of four labs housed at the facility.

Some of the companies that already are seeking to join the DSTA could become part of the WiFi project, Perry explained.

“One company that has applied has developed a lightweight blimp that can be carried in a Humvee trailer and could be used as part of a communications network and for surveillance,” Perry said.

Other applicants include firms focused on 3D animation and simulation; adhesives, composites and sealants; and medical simulation training, according to Miller.

“We’ll start interviewing companies next week,” he added. “Three or four of them have already received (federal) Small Business Innovation or Small Business Technology Transfer grants, so someone has thought enough of their technologies to give them funding already.”

The DSTA will offer space to 21 companies that have technology already in the prototype stage so products can be commercialized in as quickly as eight months.

The WiFi project could very well be the flagship product delivered to U.S. forces through the lab. A communications network based on WiFi is needed, Miller said.

“This funding is critical for supporting the needs of our military in providing critical command and control systems for use while we are engaged in this global war on terror,” Perry said. “It will provide direct links for video, for still imagery, and for sensor-type information. The data can be shared with mounted or dismounted combatants through transceivers they are carrying.”

Joan Myers, chief executive officer of the NCTA, said in a statement that the federal funding will not only help the DSTA but also war fighters in the field.

“We are tremendously excited and grateful for Congressman Hayes’ leadership and commitment to our military and the technology industry,” Myers said. “Congressman Hayes understands the critical importance of getting cutting-edge technology into the war fighters hands faster by utilizing the world class technologies developed here in North Carolina. This is a huge success for our military and our technology companies all across the state.”

For more information about the incubator, see: http://www.dstanc.org/