ADELPHI, Md. -- The U.S. Army holds a series of nationwide competitions to revolutionize the way it attracts and encourages innovation. The venture, which launched in 2018, is called xTech, and it is now in its fifth iteration.
The competition has evolved to become an incubator for promising new defense and dual-use technologies.
“It was really intended as a mechanism to break down the barriers between the Army and the small-business ecosystem and innovators across the country,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the U.S. Army’s director for prize competitions.
Willis, who works at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, also known as ASA(ALT), said the perpetual challenge is that many small businesses are out there at the forefront of technology, but they don’t necessarily see the U.S. government as a viable partner.
That can be because of either the perceived or realized long contracting time, huge barriers of entry for engaging with the government, or really not understanding what our problems are,” he said.
With xTech, innovators submit potential solutions to technical issues facing the Army and compete for prize money. For example, the Army recently launched an xTech Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office Army Strategic Rapid Acquisition competition to evaluate disruptive, innovative approaches and technologies to address critical capabilities required by the Army. Learn more here.
“What we are looking for are the innovations that are out there,” said Zeke Topolosky from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory and the xTech program manager. “We’ll take any idea in xTech. What we’re looking for is to match up innovators with the problem owners.”
Willis and Topolosky gave an extensive interview about the xTech prize program in the June 2, 2021, episode of the lab’s What We Learned Today podcast.
During the height of the pandemic, xTech held a prize competition to combat COVID-19. With a total of $1 million awarded, innovators came up with solutions to provide a low-cost, readily manufacturable emergency ventilator. Learn more about the challenge here.
“We’re really trying to find those innovators in places that typically don’t work with the government,” Willis said. “We’ve broadened the xTech program into the flagship prize competition for the Army.”
To participate in xTech, innovators can visit this site to apply.
As the Army’s corporate research laboratory, ARL is operationalizing science to achieve transformational overmatch. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more successful at winning the nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the Army Futures Command.