Defense Secretary Ash Carter has made it a priority to make the Pentagon a better customer for startups standing up programs that fund small businesses faster and put government contracting jargon into English.
1. Rebuild the Chemical and Biological Defense Suit
U.S. military leaders want to pay as much as $250,000 in a competition to design a suit to better protect America’s troops from chemical and biological attacks. The current collection of protective suits has not received an upgrade in decades even though chemical and biological threats have gotten more dangerous on the battlefield.
The Defense Department’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program issued a report to Congress signaling the new efforts the military is taking to upgrade protective systems to keep up with the increasing threats. The competition and outreach to new companies is part of the effort.
Competitors can win up to $150,000 for their submissions with the prize pool totaling $250,000. Along with the prize money, participants will also have their work seen by some of the top companies in the apparel industry. The judges panel includes officials from Under Armour, Boathouse, Lululemon and Velocity Systems.
The military outfits its troops with a range of chemical and biological defense suits that include protective garments lined with charcoal, rubber overboots and gloves. Military leaders want a suit that is lighter, cooler and better integrated to the equipment used by troops in combat. Solutions can range from new sewing patterns to wearables that measures heart rates.
The Pentagon is hosting a free kickoff lunch at the Museum of Science in Boston on Aug. 25 at noon to promote the event to startups, designers, businesses and students. Organizers chose to host the kickoff event in Boston because of the number of industrial design, material science and wearables startups in the region.