Challenge Updates

Challenge Updates

Through prize competitions DHS has sought the inspiration of citizens to find creative solutions to tough problems that require a variety of perspectives.


Challenges Under Way

Opioid Detection Challenge

On June 11, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced eight finalists in the first stage of the Opioid Detection Challenge, which is a $1.55 million global prize competition for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids in international mail.

S&T, in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the United States Postal Inspection Service, is sponsoring a $1.55M multi-stage prize competition to identify technologies that help disrupt the flow of opioids through international mail.

The abuse of opioids such as fentanyl has created an unprecedented public health crisis across the United States. In 2017, approximately 50,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. International mail — through both USPS and express consignment — has been identified as a route for illicit opioids entering the U.S., commonly transported in nearly pure, powdered form. Consequently, large-scale drug trafficking can occur via very small packages sent in the mail.

In Stage 1, the Challenge called upon innovators to submit novel plans for rapid, nonintrusive detection tools that will help find illicit opioids in international mail. The submission deadline was April 24, 2019, and eight finalists were announced June 11, 2019. The finalists each received $100,000 in cash prizes and advanced to Stage 2 of the competition.

In Stage 2, finalists from Stage 1 will participate in a 14-week prototyping accelerator, where they will develop their plans into testable prototypes. During this time, they will receive additional support, including access to mentors, guidance from government experts, educational webinars, access to additional datasets, and information on current processes. Stage 2 will culminate in a live test event, where the finalists from Stage 1 will convene at a government selected facility for on-site testing of their prototypes and compete for an additional $750,000 in cash prizes.

For more information about the Opioid Detection Challenge and to sign up to receive Challenge updates, visit


Escape Respirator Challenge

On August 1, 2019, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate announced three finalists for the first stage of the $250,000 Escape Respirator Challenge. The Challenge sought new concepts for an escape respirator for use by DHS personnel and first responders.

The first stage of the Challenge called upon the innovation community to submit relevant, useable, effective and feasible concepts that provide oxygen and protect the user against aerosolized CBR hazards. Each finalist will receive $50,000 to expand their concepts and develop working prototypes and advance to Stage II where they will demonstrate their prototypes and compete for a final cash prize of $100,000.

Although commercial solutions for escape hoods or respirators exist, most currently-available models lack an oxygen delivery mechanism for respiratory protection when worn in an oxygen-deficient environment, such as a smoke-filled room. They also do not have the small form factor, in packaging or weight reduction, sought through this Challenge. Visit the Escape Respirator Challenge website for more details about DHS S&T’s technology design specifications.

Visit for challenge details.


Past Prize Challenges

For information on past prize challenges follow the below links:

Was this page helpful?

This page was not helpful because the content:
Back to Top