DHS Prize Challenges

DHS Prize Challenges

Prize competitions are a way to crowdsource and engage citizen inventors directly to find interesting ideas or solutions to some of the toughest homeland security challenges. In fact, the government has used prize competitions for hundreds of years. The White House and U.S. Capitol designs were results of prize competitions.

DHS Administers prize competition and Challenges under the America COMPETES Act, Challenges are open to individuals who are over the age of 18 and are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents at the time of submission, and to U.S. entities that are incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States. Contestants are highly encouraged to read over the prize competition and Challenge instructions, including eligibility to enter the prize, rules, and submission requirements.  Compliance with the Challenge instructions is subject to verification by DHS. This verification occurs before cash prizes are awarded.  S&T, as the delegated authority, supports prize competitions throughout DHS.

New Prize Competition on Novel Solutions for Countering Extreme Heat Conditions

Image: Map of United States of America with a range of red to blue color  | Text: The Cooling Solutions, $195K Prize Money, Submission Deadline: December 7

DHS is holding the first in a series of prize competitions focused on strengthening the nation’s resilience to climate change. The “Cooling Solutions Challenge” is part of DHS’s effort to implement a proactive approach to climate change resilience.

Extreme heat is the Nation’s leading cause of weather-related deaths, and this Challenge is designed to spur groundbreaking solutions to help better protect people—including first responders—during extreme heat events. Solutions should be climate-friendly and focused on countering extreme heat conditions.  The Cooling Solutions Challenge is in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Winners will receive cash prizes from a total pool of $195,000 for their innovative solutions.

Please read the full Challenge instructions, including eligibility to enter the prize, rules, and submission requirements before entering a submission. The full details are listed in the sections below on this website and can be found on Challenge.gov website, which is the official website where the Federal Government announces all prize competitions and Challenges.

Key Dates and Prizes

Image of United States - Cooling Solutions Prize Timeline: September 22, 2021 - Prize Launch; December 7, 2021 - Submissions Due; January 2022 - Finalists Announced; March 2022 - Stage 2 Winners AnnouncedSubmission Start: Thursday, 09/23/2021 08:00 AM ET
Submission End: Tuesday, 12/07/2021 08:00 PM ET

Stage 1 - Up to fifteen (15) Finalists will receive $5,000 each and proceed to the Stage 2 of the Challenge.  Finalists are selected based on fulfilling submission instructions and Stage 1 judging criteria. Stage 1 Finalists will be announced in January 2022 and may be asked to participate in a DHS public event in January 2022.

Stage 2 - Prize Winners will be selected based on fulfilling submission requirements, Stage 1 and Stage 2 judging criteria, and “Use Case” applicability.

Stage 2 Prize Winners:

  • One (1) Grand Prize Winner: $50,000
  • One (1) Runner-up Winner: $20,000
  • Up to Four (4) Use Case Winners: $10,000
  • Up to Two (2) Honorable Mentions: $5,000

Stage 2 Prize Winners will be announced in March 2022. Dates are subject to change.

For Official Rules, including specifics on eligibility, rules, judging criteria, and use cases, visit the Cooling Solutions Challenge page on Challenge.gov for more information.


Protecting the public from heat-related illness and death during extreme heat events or in connection with other disasters is an important part of disaster preparedness and resilience and DHS’s mission. This Challenge is seeking innovative climate-friendly cooling solutions that can provide access to cooling to people in public and residential areas. DHS is looking for novel ways to protect those at risk of heat-related illness or death, including first responders, households or group quarters without access to conventional cooling systems or experiencing sustained power outages, and displaced or homeless populations. Relative to current cooling solutions, these new designs will be more eco-friendly and energy efficient, while being cost effective, scalable, durable, and allowing for alternate power sources.  These features will make them well suited for mitigating emerging risks associated with extreme heat conditions from or during disasters. Cascading impacts resulting from catastrophic damages or loss of power during disasters exacerbate risks of heat-related illness, when conventional air conditioning (A/C) is not available during extreme heat conditions. Climate change is also driving local heat events that exceed historic temperature extremes. During heat events, those at the greatest risk of heat-related illness include infants and young children; people 65 years of age or older; people with illnesses or chronic health conditions; and homeless or displaced populations. First responders or those required to work outdoors in support of community lifelines are also at risk for heat-related illness or require solutions to support encounters with heat-related illness.


Promoting national resilience against the many threats associated with climate change, including extreme heat, is a DHS priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), extreme heat events are common across the United States in recent decades and are expected to become more common, more severe, and longer lasting as global temperatures continue to rise. 

Extreme heat events and their effects significantly impact the United States. Extreme heat events are one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States, and a reason for many emergency departments visits and hospital stays. For example, record-breaking heat indexes in the Pacific Northwest in June 2021 caused more than 2,500 people to seek emergency department treatment for heat-related illness. In addition, rising global temperatures produce extreme weather such as wildfires, flooding, and hurricanes that cause power outages. Those power outages coupled with already unseasonable high temperatures are gravely increasing heat-related illness after a disaster.  In the wake of the extended power outages caused by Hurricane Ida, for example, Louisiana has recorded several heat-related deaths.

There are some simple safety measures that people can take to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses or death, including avoiding unnecessary sun exposure, avoiding unnecessary hard work or activities outdoors, drinking water often, wearing light and loose-fitting clothing, and staying in an air-conditioned area during the hottest hours of the day. However, many Americans who experience extreme heat events lack access to conventional A/C. Solutions are needed to protect them, and to do so in an energy-efficient, user-friendly, and cost-effective way.


Total cash prize pool: $195,000

This Challenge is in two stages.

  • Stage 1 - Up to fifteen (15) Finalists will receive $5,000 each and proceed to the Stage 2 of the Challenge. Finalists are selected based on fulfilling submission instructions and Stage 1 judging criteria.
  • Stage 2 - Prize Winners are selected based on fulfilling submission requirements, Stage 2 judging criteria, and Use Case applicability.
  • Stage 2 Prize Winners:

    • One (1) Grand Prize Winner: $50,000
    • One (1) Runner-up Winner: $20,000
    • Up to Four (4) Use Case Winners: $10,000
    • Up to Two (2) Honorable Mentions: $5,000

Payment of Prizes: Prizes awarded under this Challenge will be paid by DHS and cash prizes must be received via electronic funds transfer. All Federal, State, and local taxes are the sole responsibility of the Finalists and Prize Winners. DHS will comply with the Internal Revenue Service withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable.

Additionally, Prize Winners also may be considered for future opportunities including:

  • Supporting with mentorship; DHS could assist respondents by establishing mentorships to aid in the refinement/advancement of proposed approaches.
  • Connections to technology accelerators or other innovation development programs
  • Connections to existing developers and/or manufacturers
  • Assistance with advancement/finalization of proposed solution
  • Invitations to DHS conferences and/or lectures and opportunities to speak with broader security audiences

Judging Criteria

JUDGING AND USE CASES: This Challenge is in two stages. Below are the judging criteria and “Use Cases” that provide context for Challenge and awarding of cash prizes.

Submissions should explain how well the proposed solution(s) address the cooling problem and use cases based on the criteria below for both Stage 1 and Stage 2. Overall, the judging will consider how user-friendly (easy-to-install or retro-fit and easy-to-use) and cost effective the solution is, and how well it meets the judging criteria.

Stage 1 Finalists will be based on how well the proposed solution(s) addresses the cooling problem and Use Cases including:

  • How well does the submission address the problem and criteria? This can include evaluation and demonstration of the solution and applicability to use case(s).
  • How unique is solution? What is the value proposition, how has the technology been used and validated, and are there potential benefits or tradeoffs?
  • What is the business model or financial plans?

Stage 2 will be judged on the following criteria:

  • All the criteria indicated in Stage 1
  • Cooling capacity – The solution must achieve a cooling temperature within 10% variance of difference between the dry and wet bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (for both indoor and outdoor scenarios). Ability to sustain the reduced temperature for 95% of the time that the temperature remains at 35 degrees Celsius during a 6-hour test scenario.
  • Energy usage – Demonstrate 35-50% reduction in energy consumption compared to a traditional Air Conditioning (A/C) cooling baseline unit.
  • Water consumption – Demonstrate 25-50% reduced water consumption compared to a traditional A/C cooling baseline unit, as applicable.
  • Emissions – Produces zero greenhouse emissions during use.
  • Refrigerant – Does not contain ozone depleting cooling agents or hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • Ease of Operation – Does not require a designed-in engineering solution; easily portable for reuse in a variety of environments; does not require specialized training; minimum operating instructions; plug-and-play; deployable within 10-minutes or less; ability to operate using a backup power source; no special storage requirements.
  • Affordability – Cost must not exceed 2x the cost of a comparable, traditional A/C cooling baseline unit.
  • No FDA compliance / medical technologies.
  • Applicability to Use Case(s).

Use Cases: Submissions should indicate and address at least one of the Use Cases:

Use Case 1: Assisting First Responders

  • Applicable to both first responder personal use and using on survivors at risk of heat-related stress.

Use Case 2: Personal Use

  • Applicable to individual use in indoor/outdoor environments.

Use Case 3: Household, group quarter or multi-person use as an alternative to conventional Air Conditioning or built-in cooling solutions:

  • Many currently available home-cooling technologies consume large amounts of power. That energy use makes these technologies not only expensive but also unavailable during a sustained power outage.

Use Case 4: Indoor/outdoor venues accessible to homeless or displaced populations in public settings

  • For example, public cooling areas on streets, in schools, stadiums, subway and bus stations, or other solutions for individuals that do not have access to cooling.

Judging Panel:

A judging panel will consist of DHS, and other Federal partner representatives. The judging panel could include State and local, and non-governmental emergency response partners related to preparedness or response mission areas.


Eligibility Requirements: This Challenge is open to all individuals (non-felons) over the age of 18, U.S. Citizens or legal permanent residents at the time of submission, and to all legal U.S. entities whose primary place of business is in the U.S. eligibility is subject to verification by DHS before cash prizes are awarded.

Officers, directors, advisory board members, employees, and support contractors of the DHS and Challenge judges are ineligible to compete in this Challenge. Likewise, members of their immediate family (spouses, children, step-children, siblings, step-siblings, parents, step-parents), and persons living in the same household, whether or not related, are not eligible to participate in any portion of this Challenge. Note: The members of an individual’s household include any other person who shares the same residence as such individual for at least three months out of the year. See the official Challenge.gov public notice for full set of exclusions and eligibility requirements.

You are not eligible to receive any cash prize award in the Challenge if you are a resident designated by the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

To be eligible to win a cash prize award under this Challenge, an individual or entity (“Contestant”):

  1. Shall have applied to participate in this Challenge under the rules promulgated by DHS in accordance with the description provided and comply with all of the requirements in this announcement.
  2. Pursuant to the America COMPETES Act, cash prize awards for this Challenge may only be given to an individual that is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by DHS before prizes are awarded. An individual or entity must enter the Challenge directly by following the instructions in “How to Enter a Submission” and send the submission to prizeauthority@hq.dhs.gov in this announcement in order to be eligible to win a cash prize award.
  3. Entities selected as a Finalists and Prize Winners must register or be previously registered in the System for Awards Management in order to receive a cash prize award. Registration in the System for Awards Management is not a prerequisite for submitting a submission to this Challenge. Failure to register in the System for Awards Management within thirty (30) days of notification by DHS will result in a disqualification of the winning submission. A Contestant (individual or entity) that is determined to be on the GSA Excluded Parties List is ineligible to receive a cash prize award and will not be selected as a cash prize Finalist or Prize Winner.
  4. Contestants (individuals and entities), otherwise eligible to win a prize, may form and submit a team submission; however, each eligible individual or entity must first register as an individual (Contestant) for the Challenge before they form a team. Failure to follow this procedure as outlined on the Challenge website will disqualify the Challenge submission. Team winnings, as determined by DHS, will be distributed to the team submission.
  5. Contestants to this Challenge must agree to be bound by the rules of the Challenge, agree that the decision of the judges for this Challenge are final and binding, and acknowledge that their submission may be the subject of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and that they are responsible for identifying and marking all business confidential and proprietary information in their submission.
  6. Individuals and individual team members selected as a Challenge cash prize Finalists or Prize Winners must submit all required taxpayer identification and bank account information required to complete an electronic payment of a cash prize award. Failure to provide DHS required documents for electronic payment within thirty (30) days of notification by DHS will result in a disqualification of any winning submission.
  7. Contestants in this Challenge must agree, as a condition for winning a cash prize, must agree to complete and submit all required Finalists and Prize Winners verification documents to DHS within thirty (30) days of notification.
  8. Contestants to this Challenge must agree and consent, as a condition for receiving a cash prize award, to the use of their name, entity, city and State, likeness or image, comments, and a short synopsis of their Final or Prize-Winning solution as a part of DHS’s promotion of this Challenge.
  9. As a condition of participation, all Contestants must agree to indemnify the federal government against third-party claims for damages arising from or related to challenge activities. Contestants are not required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in order to participate in the Challenge. By entering the Challenge, Contestants agree to hold DHS harmless from all legal and administrative claims to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to their Challenge solutions or its use.
  10. Contestants must own or have access to a computer, an internet connection, and any other electronic devices, documentation, software, or other items that Contestants may deem necessary to create and enter a submission. The government will not reimburse Contestant’s time and expense to enter the Challenge.
  11. The following Contestants (including any individuals participating as part of a team or entity) are not eligible regardless of whether they meet the criteria set forth above:

    • Any Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of his or her employment or otherwise be prohibited by Federal law (employees should consult their agency ethics officials). Note: Federal ethical conduct rules may restrict or prohibit federal employees from engaging in certain outside activities; any federal employee not excluded under the prior paragraph seeking to participate in this Challenge outside the scope of employment should consult his/her agency’s ethics official prior to developing a submission.
    • Any Contestant that used DHS federal facilities or relied upon significant consultation with DHS federal employees to develop a submission, unless the facilities and employees were made available to all Contestants or participants in this Challenge on an equal basis.
    • Any Contestant that used federal funds to develop a submission, unless such use is consistent with the grant award, or other applicable federal funds awarding document. If a grantee using federal funds enters and wins this Challenge, the cash prize award must be treated as program income for purposes of the original grant in accordance with applicable Office of Management and Budget Circulars. Federal contractors may not use federal funds from a contract to develop a submission for this Challenge.
  12. Per 15 U.S.C. 3719(h), a Contestant shall not be deemed ineligible under these eligibility rules because the individual or entity used federal facilities or consulted with Federal employees during a Challenge if the facilities and employees are made available to all individuals and entities participating in the Challenge on an equitable basis.
  13. Use of Marks: Except as expressly set forth in the Challenge rules, Contestants shall not use the names, trademarks, service marks, logos, insignias, trade dress, or any other designation of source or origin subject to legal protection, copyrighted material or similar intellectual property (“Marks”) of the organizers or other Challenge partners, sponsors, or collaborators in any way without such party’s prior written permission in each instance, which such party may grant or withhold at its sole and absolute discretion.
  14. An individual or entity that is determined to be on the GSA Excluded Parties List is ineligible to receive a cash prize award and will not be selected as a Finalist or Prize Winner.
  15. Nothing in this announcement, registering as a Contestant or being designated as a Finalist or Prize Winner shall act as an endorsement by DHS. Contestants, including Finalists and Prize Winners, shall refrain from any activity that through word or deed act as or function as an apparent endorsement of a Contestant, Finalist, or Prize Winner. Contestants are prohibited from using the logo or official seal of DHS or other government logos or official seals and must not otherwise give an appearance of U.S. government endorsement.

The submission to this Challenge does not guarantee acceptance, a cash prize award, or further use or consideration by DHS.

Prize awards are subject to verification of eligibility and compliance with the Challenge rules. All decisions of the Prize Challenge Sponsor and judges are final and binding on all matters relating to this Challenge. The Prize Challenge Sponsor reserves the right to examine the submission and any associated code or documentation for compliance with these Challenge Rules, Terms, and Conditions. In the event that the submission demonstrates a breach of these Challenge Rules, Terms, and Conditions, the Prize Challenge Sponsor may, at its discretion, take either of the following actions:

  • Disqualify a Submission(s)
  • Require remediation within one week of all issues identified in your Submission(s) (including, without limitation, the resolution of license conflicts, the fulfillment of all obligations required by software licenses, and the removal of any software that violates the software restrictions).

Intellectual Property: Contestants retains ownership of existing Intellectual Property (IP) submitted under this Challenge, and agree that their submissions are the original work of the Contestant named in the submission (e.g., individual, team, entity) on whose behalf it is being submitted; Contestants have authority, warrant, and have sufficient rights to submit the submission on behalf of the identified an individual or entity. Use of the submission for this Challenge does not trigger any financial liability for the government or Challenge Sponsor. In the event of being designated a winner, as the Contestant have the authority and sufficient right to execute a License on behalf of the individual or entity identified in the submission. The Government, including its partners and/or entities working in its behalf, reserves the right to enter into good faith negotiations for license rights associated with Challenge submissions to pursue operationalization of innovative approaches, using appropriate federal authorities as may be required, at any time during or after the Challenge. While Contestants retain ownership of their existing IP, any IP that they develop in connection therewith is subject to the license granted to the government to use. Contestants agree to promptly execute, prior to receiving any prize award, any documents required by Challenge Sponsor under this provision. Contestants shall indemnify and hold harmless the government for any claim arising out its duties as required by the Challenge Sponsor and occasioned by a breach of any of the representations in this section. Contestants

Privacy: Information provided by Contestants through the submission will be used to contact selected Finalists and Prize Winners. Information is not collected for commercial marketing. Finalists and Prize Winners are permitted to cite that they won this Challenge after it has been officially announced by DHS subject to the provisions of item 15 listed above in the Rules, Terms, and Conditions. The names, cities, and States of selected Finalists and Prize Winners will be made available in promotional materials and at recognition events.

How to Enter a Submission

To be eligible to win a prize award under this Challenge, Contestants must enter a submission for the Challenge. The submissions must be emailed to DHS Prize Competitions team at prizeauthority@hq.dhs.gov by submission end date (Date: 12/07/2021 08:00 PM ET) and must comply with the below:

  • Subject line stating “DHS Cooling Solution Challenge Submission”
  • Email must come from the official representative for the team (if a team entry)
  • All entries must be in English
  • Contestants must not use DHS, or other government logos or official seals in their submissions and must not otherwise give an appearance of federal government endorsement
  • Entrant’s full name and/or team name
  • Contact information including email, address, and phone numbers
  • Name of proposed solution(s)
  • Attach a brief (no more than 3 pages) non-proprietary description of the proposed cooling solution addressing the problem statement, use case and use case applicability
  • Or a video that is no more than 3 minutes. The video must not contain proprietary information. The video must be in MP3 format and be downloadable with a link to an accessible location on video sharing platform (for example, YouTube or Vimeo)

The DHS Prize Competitions team will confirm each submission with an email confirmation from prizeauthority@hq.dhs.gov.

Contestants’ scores and ranks will be based on the evaluation criteria described in this announcement. Stage 1 Finalists and Stage 2 Prize Winners of this Challenge will be determined solely by the judging panel’s ranking (subject to compliance with the Challenge Rules, Terms, and conditions).

Failure to follow the submission guidelines may result in disqualification.


Questions regarding this Challenge may be directed to prizeauthority@hq.dhs.gov. We will post all registered contestant questions and answers on this prize competition website. In addition, DHS may decide to host online public forum to answer and/or share questions and answers, and the questions and answers will be posted on this prize competition website.

Past Prize Competitions

For details on past prizes visit the Past Prize Challenges page!

Visit Challenge.gov to learn more about all open challenges across the Federal Government.


For questions on the Department of Homeland Security’s Prize Competitions, contact the team at PrizeAuthority@hq.dhs.gov.

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