NASA launches Entrepreneurs Challenge

On July 12, NASA announced its 2021 Entrepreneurs Challenge to invite fresh ideas and new participants that will lead to new instruments and technologies with the potential to advance the agency’s science mission goals.

The agency’s Science Mission Directorate is seeking novel ideas that focus on priority areas for the commercial sector. The Entrepreneurs Challenge aligns with NASA’s goal to foster innovation and develop new technologies at lower costs while sourcing ideas from across the country with an emphasis on reaching out to underserved communities.

“NASA relies on innovative technology to advance our crucial science goals,” said Nicole Rayl, the acting chief technologist for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Today’s novel ideas enable tomorrow’s cutting-edge research – and we sponsor and support such technology development through every step of that process. We’re always so excited to see the creativity launched by challenges like this.”

Successful participants will contribute ideas that advance the state of the art in three broadly defined science technology focus areas:

  • Small satellite capabilities to enable science.
  • Metamaterials-based sensor technologies.
  • Sample handling and processing technology for the detection of biomarkers in highly dilute samples.

To encourage entrepreneurs to participate in the challenge, the Science Mission Directorate will award finalists as much as $90,000 through a two-stage process. NASA will encourage all awardees to take part in follow-on activities provided by its Small Business Innovative Research program to learn about additional ways to work with the agency. In Round One, each participant will submit a five-page white paper that broadly describes the capability their idea offers and its relevance to a specific science-enabling area of technology. A NASA panel will select as many as 20 top ideas to advance to the next round of the competition, awarding each winner $10,000.

Companies that advance to Round Two will develop their concepts into detailed submissions. Participants will submit a more comprehensive white paper and participate in a live Virtual Pitch Event. A NASA judging panel will evaluate them based on their white papers and pitches. Venture capital firms with an interest in the topic areas will be invited to attend the Virtual Pitch Event. At the conclusion of the event, the judging panel will award up to 10 of the highest scoring teams $80,000 each.

Learn more about the NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge.