U.S.-U.K. Sponsor First Joint Challenge Prize

By Sonja Jordan

Photo: Defense Dept.

Two defense agencies from the United States and the United Kingdom for the first time are teaming up to co-sponsor a challenge prize.

The United Kingdom’s Defence and Security Accelerator and the Pentagon are seeking new technologies to defeat chemical and biological munitions in their “Don’t Blow It” competition.

Challenge prizes — where teams compete to solve a tough technological problem — have been widely used in both countries, but organizers say this is the first time the two nations have worked together and put their money into one pot.

The goal of the initiative is for new technology to emerge to better “access, disable and/or irreversibly destroy chemical and biological munitions, improvised explosive devices, and bulk agents on the battlefield or in other austere environments,” according to a press release.

“The expanding proliferation of chemical weapons use, from state and non-state actors, portends the greatest threat of their use on the battlefield since World War I,” said Guy B. Roberts, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. “My responsibility is to ensure our forces are protected from, and can fight through, any such threats.”

The key phrase is “on the battlefield.” Currently, warfighters utilize explosives in austere environments to dispose of chemical and biological agents. Hence the name of the competition: “Don’t Blow It.”

But that is not always a safe or feasible way to mitigate the threats, Kris Perkins, director for chemical and biological weapons elimination at the office of the assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said in an interview.

Current technologies lack mobility, carry “lengthy logistics tails” and are “cumbersome,” he said. New and less crude disposal methods are needed.

Competitors can come from a variety of backgrounds, he noted. “We’re reaching out to industry and academia within the science, technology, research-and-development area. We really put no limitations on who can compete,” Perkins said.

“We wanted to get some new blood in the water,” he added. Officials want to “allow some other industries and academia that may have some … new concepts in technologies or novel uses of our current capabilities to share their thoughts and their concepts.”

Phase one winners of the competition can receive up to $636,000 for their concepts and proposals. Phase two winners can win up to $1.9 million for prototypes and demonstrations, Perkins noted. Once the competition is over, joint use of the technology will “definitely” be considered, he added.

Topics: Budget, Global Defense Market, International

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