WASHINGTON — The Army’s acquisition chief, Bruce Jette, has directed the Army’s Expeditionary Technology Search program to hold a competition for solutions to rapidly build ventilators to support the COVID-19 virus emergency response, according to an April 9 service statement.

Addressing the United States’ ventilator shortage needed to treat severe cases of COVID-19, the xTechSearch team will tap industry for innovative approaches to building an inexpensive, emergency ventilator “that requires minimal components and is designed for simplified mass production,” the statement reads.

The competition will be open to “any American business, regardless of size,” the statement notes.

The team will begin accepting virtual pitches from competitors starting April 13. “Novel solutions” will win a prize of $5,000 to present pitches of the concepts virtually to a panel of judges, according to the statement. The Army will then award $100,000 cash prizes to winning solutions to develop concept prototypes, it adds. Some technologies could receive follow-on contracts for further production and deployment.

"The technology solution must provide a rapid-response breathing apparatus capable of short-term, rugged field operation in a small footprint that will support field hospitals," Zeke Topolosky, the Army xTechSearch program manager, said in the statement.

The statement did not detail how rapidly technologies should move from concept to prototype to production.

xTechSearch is a competition sponsored by the Army’s acquisition branch “targeting small businesses to uncover novel dual-use science and technology solutions,” according to the program’s website. “The competition aims to tackle the Army’s most critical modernization challenges supporting the top Army focus areas.”

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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