DHS S&T Harnessing the nation’s competitive spirit for innovative solutions

the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) uses a proven approach to finding innovative technological solutions: prize competitions.

Prize contests have been used countless times by the U.S. government since its founding nearly 250 years ago. Many people may not be aware that two of the most recognizable American building designs were selected from the competition entries: the White House, designed by James Hoban in 1792, and the United States Capitol, designed by William. Thornton in 1793. In fact, many of the nation’s monuments and memorials, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial located in Washington, DC, were the result of prize contests.

“The US government has used prize contests since the 1700s. Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses them to encourage the general public and citizen-scientists to help us identify new ideas and technologies.” , explained Kathleen Kenyon, head of S&T for challenges and prize competitions. “Many inventions and innovations, past and present, are the direct result of inventive ideas submitted by ordinary citizens participating in government sponsored prize contests. “

Prize contests are flexible and allow DHS to solicit the development of various ideas and technologies. Compared to many other funding mechanisms offered by the federal government, prize contests are quicker and less onerous. Each competition is unique.

“Like many federal agencies, DHS uses award challenges to motivate stakeholders to get involved in the solution development process and reward them for their ideas. S&T plays a critical role in this process by creating, supporting and providing oversight for the management of all award competitions sponsored by DHS and its agencies, ”said Kenyon. “Through partnerships with the DHS agencies involved and the challenges, we are identifying new innovations that help make our homeland safe and secure. People want to share their ideas, but mistakenly think that working with government can be confusing or time consuming. Prize contests make it easier for our citizens to share their innovative ideas. “

S&T works with other DHS agencies to develop competitions that impact the DHS mission. In the past, these award competitions have led to the creation and implementation of truly innovative technologies and solutions. Today, a new competition is underway to identify essential solutions to a very “hot” subject, focused on the fight against the extreme heat due to climate change.

Counter extreme heat with Cool technology

Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the country and has a significant impact on the United States each year. Research from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that heat-related deaths have become a regular occurrence in the United States and are expected to rise as global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change.

To combat this public health crisis, S&T, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), recently announced a new competition, the Cooling solutions challenge. This open competition is the first in a series of competitions focused on DHS initiatives aimed at building the country’s resilience to climate change.

The Challenge is designed to spur breakthrough solutions to help better protect people, including first responders, during extreme heat episodes. S&T and FEMA seek climate-friendly solutions focused on tackling extreme heat conditions. Innovators are urged to develop scalable, sustainable, energy efficient and climate friendly technological solutions that will protect vulnerable populations (e.g. households without access to conventional cooling systems), first responders and the public by keeping them cool and by reducing their vulnerability to heat-related illness and death during extreme heat episodes. The challenge has two stages and finalists will be announced in March 2022 and winners announced in May 2022. Prizes will be awarded from a prize pool of $ 195,000 and will include non-cash prizes such as mentorship opportunities, networking and marketing.

The Cooling Solution Challenge follows several recent competitions

“The S&T challenges and awards competitions are truly an effective way to reach a wide range of citizen-innovators who can help solve our country’s most pressing problems,” said Kenyon. Before launching the Cooling solutions challenge, S&T has run two other successful competitions in the past two years.

In March 2020, S&T announced the winner of the $ 25,000 grand prize Trusted User Interface (UI) for the digital wallet challenge, who was looking for a design concept for a reliable and easy-to-use user interface for digital wallets that would improve the user experience (UX) for managing digital credentials. As DHS and other federal agencies move towards digitizing credential issuance and storage, they are using blockchain and distributed technologies to verify credentials using open standards. . The grand prize winner offered to combine an efficient user experience and shareable back-end functionality for the verifiable credentials community. S&T released the winning UI for the global community to use and rework the UX of digital wallets.

Recent S&T The Passenger Power Challenge researched ideas that could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration and improve the passenger experience. At the end of the competition in March 2021, the prize of $ 215,000 was distributed among one grand prize winner and 10 winners per focus area. TSA is evaluating and testing solutions today and continues to work with Challenge winners.

“The creativity and ingenuity that DHS has witnessed and benefited from is truly exceptional. I invite and strongly encourage anyone who has a relevant idea for a competition to participate. Your idea could be the innovative solution DHS is looking for! “

The deadline for submitting proposals for the Cooling solutions challenge is February 24, 2022. For more information on this competition or on previous competitions, visit our prize challenge website. For information on all US government award competitions, visit Challenge.gov.

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