WASHINGTON – Fire suppression is vital to Soldier readiness because even the smallest fire can escalate to an out-of-control, dangerous situation. The result can be damaged equipment, serious injury or the loss of a Soldier’s life. VEDA, a winner of the U.S. Army xTechInternational competition, is aiming to reduce fire hazards with the development of a fire-suppression solution for Soldiers that is safe, effective and eco-friendly.
Iskra Mihajlovska is the executive manager and co-owner of VEDA, a research and development company based out of North Macedonia. VEDA was founded in 1991 by Mihajlovska’s father and she joined the family business in 2012. The small business offers a robust resume of services, including the development of new solutions and the improvement of existing technologies for other companies.
One of the solutions that VEDA created is an eco-friendly technology that quickly and efficiently extinguishes fires caused by lithium-ion batteries. It can be incorporated directly within the lithium-ion battery pouch and releases a light thermal barrier that isolates affected cells and prevents the fire from spreading to other cells within the battery. An aerosol fire extinguishing system acts as a second line of defense to immediately suppress any remaining fire hazards.
VEDA’s solution protects equipment, vehicles and the lives of Soldiers who experience the dangers of fire hazards during training and on the frontlines.
In July 2022, VEDA’s fire suppressant for lithium-ion batteries won first place for the electric power and energy technology topic area of the xTechInternational competition. Their award included a cash prize of $70,000 and an invitation to demonstrate their solution and the opportunity to network with Army stakeholders at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in October 2022.
“Our goal with xTech was to provide a better and safer transformation of combat vehicles and equipment that require lithium-ion batteries,” Mihahlovska said. “We are making equipment safer. With safer equipment, the Army will have safer Soldiers.”
While VEDA and the Army have a working relationship now, as a small, international business, breaking into the Army ecosystem has not been an easy task for VEDA. Mihajlovska shared that technology innovation in the U.S. is highly competitive and that making connections can be challenging. When she received an email about xTechInternational as an opportunity to break into the Army market, her interest was piqued.
“VEDA is part of an innovation fund that supports innovation in Macedonia, so it’s not usual to receive emails regarding grants and prize competitions,” Mihajlovska explained. “xTech immediately stood out because it seemed like the requirements were made for us – the competition was looking for international small businesses that can help Army challenges.”
Since winning xTechInternational, the interest in VEDA’s products has increased and the business now has contacts and mentors that are helping them integrate their solution into the U.S. technology market, particularly with the Army. She shared that VEDA is now forming partnerships and testing their solution with U.S. companies who are already working with the Department of Defense. Mihajlovska is hopeful that 2023 will bring continued partnerships with the U.S.-based companies, agreements for cooperation with the Army and eventual technology transitions to Soldiers.
“As an international company who typically does business with Europe and Asia, recognition from the U.S. Army is a big deal. More people from the U.S. have been starting to ask about what we’re doing,” Mihajlovska said.
Mihajlovska credits the xTech program as building a bridge between VEDA’s European homebase and the Army, and giving her the confidence to answer the question of what VEDA is doing – saving Soldiers lives through fire suppression before even the smallest of fires gets out of control.
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.
The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions, which target specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, go to https://www.xtech.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.