The DHS Science and Technology Directorate and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Research and Development Center are sponsoring a $255,000 multi-phase prize competition seeking concepts and solutions that help make it easier to find people in the water. This competition challenges companies, universities, students, and citizen innovators to develop effective and affordable concepts for a new or updated lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD), an attachment to a lifejacket/PFD, or something recreational mariners and boater use in addition to wearing their lifejacket/PFD. New recreational mariner safety solutions have the potential to greatly improve the chances of a successful rescue. Current technologies such as dyes, personal locators, and reflective materials in lifejackets/PFDs can help the U.S. Coast Guard better find people, and are shown to improve rescue rates. However, adoption of these technologies remains low, due to factors like cost, comfort, style, and awareness.
With the U.S. Coast Guard Ready For Rescue Challenge, the USCG and DHS S&T call upon innovators from a wide variety of fields— from public safety, maritime safety, recreational sports, consumer goods and materials, wearables, textiles, smart technologies, and the Internet of Things— to develop concepts for a new or updated lifejacket/PFD, attachment to a lifejacket/PFD or something recreational mariners and boaters use in addition to wearing their lifejacket/PFD that will enable search and rescue personnel to more readily find a person in the water. The USCG and DHS S&T intend for this work to be the first step in the design of new, improved, or adapted technologies that can be leveraged by current USCG Search and Rescue assets to make it easier to locate a person lost in the water.
This is a three-phase prize competition with a total cash prize purse of $255,000.
- Phase I: $25,000
- Phase II: $120,000
- Phase III: $110,000
Phase I Winners Announced
On November 15, 2018 the Challenge announced its Phase I winners: bold visions of boater safety solutions that have the potential to improve the chances of a successful rescue. All winners are invited to participate in Phase II of the competition and pitch their solution in a “Piranha Pool” to compete for a total prize pool of $120,000. The Phase II prize pool will assist Phase II winners in developing their concept into a working prototype.
Additional Phase Information
Phase I monetary prize winners and invited non-monetary honorable mentions (optional) will participate in a “piranha pool” to pitch their concept, prototype build, and evaluation plan before a panel of judges from the public and private maritime community. Participants will compete for a cash prize purse of up to $120,000 to assist in the development of their concept into a working prototype for evaluation and testing alongside USCG assets, and judging in Phase III. Phase II winners may be offered access to additional non-monetary awards consisting of USCG resources, data and mentorship. Based on a winner’s acceptance of Phase II non-monetary support, a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement and/or background check may be required to access certain USCG resources. Phase II monetary awards and offers of non-monetary awards to assist in the development of a working prototype will be distributed by the judges based upon the “piranha pool” presentation, posed questions and answers. The “piranha pool” consists of the following elements:
- Element I: Individual or team pitch cannot exceed 45 minutes. Pitch can include customized models, prototypes, and PowerPoint presentations. Judges may interrupt the pitch to challenge the presenter’s knowledge and understanding, and ask questions throughout the presentation. Each presenter must propose prototype development milestone dates and deliverables as well as requested non-monetary support needed for successful transition from concept to working prototype. (Note: The prototype development milestones must indicate a working prototype ready for limited testing and evaluation with USCG assets in Phase III by August 1, 2019). Presentations should focus on but are not limited to the following:
- The plan to develop a solution concept into a working prototype over the course of the Challenge including timeline, development milestones, requested access to government facilities, data, or mentors.
- How the concept works and why the USCG SAR community would support that concept
- Estimated costs to prototype and to manufacture at scale, including industry return on investment, incentives, etc.
- Cost to consumers and why they would buy this innovation.
- Why the government should provide additional monetary investment and resources to assist in building the prototype.
- Element II: Optional-Dedicated question and answer period (10 minutes)
- Element III: Final pitch from the individual or Team Leader that will help to convince the judges that they should be selected for a monetary cash award and that they will be successful in delivering a working prototype by August 1, 2019. (5 minutes)
Phase II Finalist Selection Criteria
When evaluating Phase II entries, judges will assign each submission one to five points in each of the criteria outlined in the Selection Criteria below. Submissions will receive a total of up to 25 points from each judge. Cash award funding will be distributed based upon the following weighted judging criteria:
- Effectiveness: Improved Detectability, Accuracy, SAR Mission Success (35%)
- Accessibility: Recreational Boater Availability, Low Cost/Estimated Cost at full scale, Marketing Approach, Consumer Perspective (20%)
- User Acceptance: Overcoming Barriers to Purchase and Use or Existing Solutions (20%)
- Commercial Feasibility: Development of a working prototype by August 1, 2019 and a potential to be manufactured at scale. (15%)
- Experience and Commitment: Ability to move from concept to prototype. (10%)
Phase III will be conducted between August 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019. Phase III will consist of limited field testing of prototypes alongside standard USCG-approved safety equipment. The test location will be in the Northeast U.S. in August 2019 (test dates to be announced). Prior to the beginning of Phase III, the USCG and DHS S&T will open Phase III to a limited number of additional contestants that did not participate in Phase I or II. New entries will be evaluated by a panel of judges based on their uniqueness, potential effectiveness and feasibility based on the criteria described in Phase I of this challenge. At the sole discretion of the judges, a limited number of new contestants with a working prototype may be invited to participate in Phase III. All Phase III contestants will be eligible to share in the Phase III prize purse of up to $110,000.
At the conclusion of the Phase III limited field testing, the judging panel may award up to $110,000 in monetary prizes to the top 5 winners. Winners who accept a monetary prize must agree to continue to work with the USCG RDC to improve their prototype, obtain feedback, prepare their prototype for commercialization, and provide requested information for preparation of the final USCG report.
Additional monetary investment by the government in the further development and commercialization of participant prototypes after the conclusion of the challenge is not anticipated. Non-monetary assistance may be offered and provided by DHS S&T.