NASA has launched their pilot Entrepreneurs Challenge, which welcomes innovative ideas that support the development of new scientific instruments and technologies.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) invites new ideas that reflect the current commercial trends. NASA has expressed interest in machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, autonomy, robotics, and advanced sensors. The Entrepreneurs Challenge follows NASA’s goal to foster innovation.
What is the Entrepreneurs Challenge?
SMD will award winners of the Entrepreneurs Challenge prize funding of up to $100,000, in a three-stage process for each selected participant. NASA also offer the winner an opportunity to take part in follow-on activities led by NASA’s Small Business Innovative Research programme. Prize winners will also learn about additional ways to work with NASA.
In the autumn of 2020, ten winning participants will submit descriptions of their innovative technology ideas in order to get the chance to win an additional $80,000 in additional prize funding to SMD for evaluation in round three.
“There’s a lot of energy and fresh thinking as a result of the entrepreneurial spirit that has emerged in our field over the past few years.
“We want to be sure we’re not leaving good ideas on the table or missing the contributions some of these potential partners could make to the exciting science missions coming up,” said Michael Seablom, NASA’s chief technologist for science.
What are the focus areas of the challenge?
Award winners of the Entrepreneurs Challenge will contribute ideas that advance technology in three scientific focus areas, which also address the science questions posed in the National Academies’ Decadal Surveys. The focus areas of the Entrepreneurs Challenge will be:
- Advanced machine learning and Artificial Intelligence for autonomous spacecraft and surface rovers, as well as for Earth observation and disaster management
- Advanced mass spectrometry for life detection and other science applications, using instrumentation that is both low-power and low-mass, and utilising innovations in sampling technology and processes that include cutting-edge materials or components
- Quantum sensors that support high precision assessments of gravity, magnetic fields, dark energy, and other measurements to support NASA science
The Entrepreneurs Challenge will take place in three rounds. Round one will require participants to submit white papers that describe the technology being offered. The white paper should also include analysis of the technology’s relevancy to a specific technology area and science question. Participant should also outline the exclusivity of their product. A judging panel will select the best 15-20 ideas to advance to the next round of the competition.
Round two of the Entrepreneurs Challenge will be a live challenge, where selectees will make oral presentations about their technologies. The event judges will select as many as ten participants for prize awards of $20,000 each. White paper submissions are due 26 June, with the challenge event to be held 29 July.