Path to Excellence
Collaboration Between HBCU, Business Featured on NIH Virtual Industry Day
Typically, the last week of September is recognized by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as National HBCU Week and includes a conference that draws thousands of HBCU leaders and advocates to the nation’s capital. This year, because of the global pandemic, the meeting was held virtually rather than in a hotel conference center.
Events during the last 2 days of the conference focused on increasing HBCUs’ competitiveness in federal contracting. Three contracting workshops were held on Sept. 24 and Federal Industry Day followed on Sept. 25.
According to Diane Frasier, head of contracting activity and director of the Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management at NIH, revenue from federal government contracts is relevant to HBCUs because “they can create more jobs on campus, which will also stimulate local economies and provide employment opportunities for students.”
“As procurement forecasts and acquisition plans are drafted for FY21, it is critical for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to have a seat at the table,” said Annette Owens-Scarboro, who manages NIH’s Small Business Program Office (SBPO).
She and Frasier have been working for several years to increase the agency’s engagement with HBCUs in accordance with White House Presidential Executive Order 13779, which directs agencies to develop plans to assist in strengthening HBCUs’ ability to participate equitably in federal programs through contracts, grants and cooperative agreements.
With that goal in mind, SBPO’s Path to Excellence & Innovation Initiative provides outreach, training and technical assistance to HBCUs interested in pursuing contracts at NIH and other federal agencies. The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is one of six HBCUs participating in the initiative’s pilot program.
Dr. David Hall, president of UVI, highlighted a partnership with entrepreneur and biologist Donald Toatley and his company SafePass IDS. Together, they developed a science-based technology designed to mitigate the consequences of Covid-19: the SafePass Intelligent Disinfectant Station, a full-body, zero contact unit. According to Toatley, this product is possibly the first technology that combines 3 sanitizing modalities and 2 health mandates in 1 system.
SafePass uses a vaporized disinfectant hydrogen peroxide mist that is gentle to the skin and recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. Additional decontamination is provided by a Far UVC light at a wavelength between 200 and 400 nanometers, a sanitizing feature that is routinely used to kill bacteria and viruses and is harmless to the human body, as well as blue light therapy, according to an informational video (https://youtu.be/DJnBmRoKOBA) presented at the conference by Hall.
The station also distributes hand sanitizer, detects whether a person is wearing a face mask and takes his or her temperature.
Along with the presentation on the SafePass station, NIH’s Federal Industry Day featured matchmaking sessions between representatives of 27 HBCUs and 43 government agencies. During these one-on-one conversations, HBCU representatives had the opportunity to present their institutions’ technical capabilities to federal procurement officials responsible for acquiring goods and services for the government.