U.S. Army awards businesses cash prizes in international competition

By Kara Kesler, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR ProgramAugust 18, 2022

xTechInternational judges gather at the finals event in Troy, Michigan. Back row (from left to right): Tom Mulkern, deputy director, DEVCOM Atlantic; Ben Paczkowski, chemical engineer, DEVCOM GVSC; Bennett Steward, engineer, AFWERX. Front row (from left to right): COL Jenny Stacy, director, DEVCOM Atlantic; Jamie Mullis, technical director, International Technology Center-Mediterranean, DEVCOM Atlantic and xTechInternational competition lead; James Mainero, chemist, DEVCOM GVSC; Harry DuRette, deputy director, DEVCOM Americas; LTC Matthew Bisswurm, director, ITC-North, DEVCOM Americas; Kate Mangum, director, ITC, DEVCOM Indo-Pacific; and Nathan Anderson, technology director, DEVCOM Atlantic. (U.S. Army)
xTechInternational judges gather at the finals event in Troy, Michigan. Back row (from left to right): Tom Mulkern, deputy director, DEVCOM Atlantic; Ben Paczkowski, chemical engineer, DEVCOM GVSC; Bennett Steward, engineer, AFWERX. Front row (from left to right): COL Jenny Stacy, director, DEVCOM Atlantic; Jamie Mullis, technical director, International Technology Center-Mediterranean, DEVCOM Atlantic and xTechInternational competition lead; James Mainero, chemist, DEVCOM GVSC; Harry DuRette, deputy director, DEVCOM Americas; LTC Matthew Bisswurm, director, ITC-North, DEVCOM Americas; Kate Mangum, director, ITC, DEVCOM Indo-Pacific; and Nathan Anderson, technology director, DEVCOM Atlantic. (U.S. Army)

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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WASHINGTON – Five non-traditional businesses from around the world are the latest recipients of cash prizes awarded through the U.S. Army xTech Program for their advanced technologies in water, electric power and energy and synthetic biology.

The five winning companies were among 14 businesses representing 11 countries that were invited to present their innovative solutions during the xTechInternational competition finals held July 11-15 across three U.S. locations: Adelphi, Maryland; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Troy, Michigan. Each first-place winner received a $60,000 cash prize, and second place winners received $40,000.

The winning companies are:

·      First Place, Electric Power and Energy: VEDA Ltd., Skopje, Macedonia, “Fire Suppression Solution for Li-Ion Batteries”

·      Second Place, Electric Power and Energy: Pass-ION Nano LLC, Huddersfield, United Kingdom, “Multifunctional Biomimetic Membranes for High-Energy Density Batteries”

·      First Place, Water: Plasma Waters, Concon, Chile, “Water Sanitation System for Pathogens Elimination and Toxic Compounds Degradation”

·      Second Place, Water: SPACEDRIP, Tallinn, Estonia, “Automated Closed-Loop Wastewater Reuse Systems that Continuously Purify Wastewater to Potable Water”

·      First Place, Synthetic Biology: Biociencia, Santiago, Chile, “Biosynthesis of Rare Earth Cerium Nanoparticles by Extremophilic Microorganisms”

"The xTechInternational competition provides a unique opportunity for the DEVCOM Forward Elements to reach out and tap into a talent pool of innovators around the globe that offer truly novel solutions to Army challenges,” said James Mullis, technical director of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command International Technology Center-Israel. “The competition enables the U.S. Army and foreign business to engage and build trust in a forum unlike any others.”

Sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, in partnership with all global DEVCOM offices (Tokyo, Japan; London, England; and Santiago, Chile), the Office of Naval Research-Global and AFWERX, a technology directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory, the competition opened in March with a call to submit concept white papers for various technologies that aid expeditionary forces operating in varied conditions. Such technologies could be used for production of potable water in real time with minimal logistical requirements, production of biochemicals/biomaterials on demand anywhere in the world, fabrication of multifunctional protective materials, and electric power to decrease the reliance on fossil fuels and to alleviate supply line issues.

Army technical subject-matter experts identified the topics that were the focus of the competition. Eric Brack from the DEVCOM Soldier Center led development of the water technology topic, James Mainero from the DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center led development of the electric power and energy topic, and Nathan Schwalm from the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory led the synthetic biology topic. Military and civilian subject-matter experts from the respective organizations, as well as from the Air Force and the Army Engineer Research and Development Center, served as judges during the final pitches.

Of the nearly 40 small businesses that submitted white papers, 20 were selected to pitch their projects to a panel of Army and DoD subject-matter experts. The pitch event concluded in June 2022, with 14 companies awarded $10,000 and an invitation to compete in the finals.

“We see international partners as an extension of our team and need them to provide critical technologies to support U.S. and coalition forces,” Mullis added. “The power and energy, water and synthetic biology technologies from this competition demonstrated capabilities that have the potential to make an impact on Army programs, while bypassing the initial research and development investment.”

Established in 2018, the Army xTech program strives to integrate small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. Participants receive detailed feedback from Army and DoD stakeholders and have access to training, mentorship and other support infrastructure as they progress through the competition to determine how best to align their technology solutions with real users and buyers within the Army. Finalists are admitted to the xTech Accelerator — at no cost to the companies — to receive additional mentorship and networking opportunities to help grow their companies for government and commercial users.

The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtechsearch.army.mil/.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs. For more information, go to https://www.army.mil/asaalt/.