Current Competitions

Current Competitions

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is sponsoring two challenges and wants you to share your knowledge! Our most recently launched is the Opioid Detection Challenge a $1.55M multi-stage prize competition to identify technologies that help disrupt the flow of opioids through international mail. The second challenge seeks innovative ideas for an escape respirator to be used by DHS operators and first responders. This $250,000 multi-phase prize competition seeks an escape respirator solution that delivers oxygen and protects the end user from aerosolized chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards. Learn more about both challenges below.

Opioid Detection Challenge

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.


The Challenge calls on innovators in a wide range of fields—from forensic science to industrial quality assurance to artificial intelligence—to help disrupt the flow of opioids into the United States by participating in this competition. The Challenge seeks novel, automated, nonintrusive, user-friendly and well developed plans for tools and technologies that have the potential to provide quick and accurate detection of opioids in parcels, without disrupting the flow of mail.

The Opioid Detection Challenge, a multi-stage open innovation competition, will award up to $1.55 million in cash prizes. Following the conclusion of the Challenge, the government expects to work with selected solvers to develop these prototypes into the next generation of opioid interdiction tools. The government plans to deploy these tools in international mail, express consignment facilities, and other environments across the country that call for rapid, accurate detection of opioids and related substances.

Stage 1

In Stage 1, the Challenge seeks well-developed plans for novel tools and technologies that can detect opioids in parcels in international mail. Solutions should be nonintrusive, accurate and intuitive, with the potential to screen packages quickly. Up to eight (8) finalists will be selected by the judges according to official Stage 1 selection criteria. Each finalist is expected to be awarded a share of the $800,000 prize pool. As part of their acceptance of the cash prize, finalists must agree to participate in Stage 2.

Stage 2

In Stage 2, Finalists will participate in a 14-week prototyping accelerator, where they will develop their plans into testable prototypes and compete for an additional $750,000 in cash prizes. During this time, finalists will receive additional support, including access to mentors, guidance from government experts, educational webinars, access to additional datasets, and/or information on current processes. We anticipate holding several webinars featuring guidance and open question periods with government and other experts. Training dataset(s) will be made available to finalists as required by the solution type.

Stage 2 will culminate in a mandatory live test event, where finalists will convene at a government selected facility for on-site testing of their prototypes. A standard testing approach will be applied to all solutions. DHS will provide a set of articles on which the solutions will be tested. Test results will be a factor in determining the Stage 2 winners, but not the sole basis for selection.

For a full list of rules, submission and selection criteria see the official challenge website at

All submissions must be received electronically as indicated in the Rules, Terms and Conditions of the Challenge by 4:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Check for the most up-to-date information.

Escape Respirator Challenge

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate is sponsoring a $250,000 multi-stage prize competition that seeks new concepts for an escape respirator for use by DHS personnel and first responders. The solution must deliver oxygen and protect the end user against aerosolized chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards. For more about the challenge, view the Q&A webinar.


The registration period for this challenge ends at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on April 11, 2019.  All submissions must be received by 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, May 30,2019.  To register and submit to this challenge visit the official competition website at

Currently available escape hoods have several shortcomings for all hazards protection. One shortcoming is an inability of some designs to be packaged compactly such that it can be carried discreetly by a person, individual, or first responder (e.g., a form factor that fits conveniently within a suit coat inner pocket). A second shortcoming for other designs is lack of an oxygen delivery mechanism for respiratory protection when worn in an oxygen-deficient environment (e.g., smoke-filled). Current designs have incorporated solutions to one of the above shortcomings, but none have adequate solutions for both problems.

The escape respirator solutions should be capable of being donned rapidly and provide delivery of oxygen for safe egress from smoke-filled, oxygen-deficient, and CBR environments. Although commercial solutions exist, they do not have the small form factor desired to be carried in a coat pocket. Also, the weight is great due to the design and packaging of the current commercial solutions.

Furthermore, if the government determines that the entire project has been successfully completed, there continues to be a need, and there is available funding; You and DHS or any DHS component may attempt to negotiate one or more new agreements for the following purposes as authorized by law:

  • Follow On prototype R&D contract, Cooperative Research and Development Agreement,  or Other Transactions Agreement as authorized by law and applicable DHS or DHS component policy.
  • Follow On agreement for limited use of one or more completed prototypes in the DHS environment for test purposes for a minimum of up to one year; as authorized by applicable law and DHS or DHS component policy.
  • A Follow-On production purchase agreement in accordance with FAR Part 6.302-1, FAR 6.204, Section 538 of Division F of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115-141); or as otherwise authorized by applicable law and DHS or DHS component policy.

Three finalists from Phase I of this challenge will compete for an additional $100,000 in prize money.


If you are named a finalist and awarded $50,000 from Phase I, please note the following:

You or your team will build a functioning prototype solution according to your submitted application within a six-month period. The prototype should include a prototype in hermetically-sealed packaging and an unpackaged prototype (without packaging).

Up to three team members for each Finalist should plan to travel to Washington, DC, to meet with the Prize Competition Selection Panel and demonstrate the merits and use of the prototype. This meeting is currently scheduled for the week of January 27, 2020, to compete for the Grand Prize at a location to be determined.

Subject to available funding, invitational travel for Finalists to travel to Washington, DC, to present their prototype/concept may be offered.

Each team must arrange shipping or hand-carry their prototype to and from the demonstration test. Prototypes should be packaged in such a way that proprietary design details are obscured because competing teams will be able to see your instruments during the testing.

Initial check-in and inspection of the prototypes will take place before testing begins.

Testing will last for three or five days and will allow for limited time mid-stream to resolve any technical issues as necessary.

All three Finalists’ prototypes will be tested at once. This approach ensures all prototypes are exposed to exactly the same challenge.

Testing may include how quickly the prototype can be removed from packaging and donned. Some evaluation of visual acuity and how easily oral communication can occur. Testing may also include how quickly and easily the supplied air can be started and how comfortable the prototype is to walk around in.

Testing will NOT include exposure to hazards or require human subject testing as we anticipate that these prototypes will require additional development before being ready for this kind of advanced testing. (Additional development will be the subject of a future and separate contract with the competition overall winner.)

The Selection Committee will be present during the demonstration.

Based on the outcome of Phase II, DHS has several options for further follow-up/research/development/testing with finalists that may lead to a commercialized solution.

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