Deadline for submissions is June 6; latest winners announced!

The National Football League is leading an effort to make the game safer at all levels while extending a once-in-a-lifetime, historic opportunity for inventors and innovation-related organizations.

NFL HeadHealthTECH Challenge V is the latest installment in a series designed to stimulate research and innovation in protective equipment—including helmets and related technologies, turf systems, shoulder and other pads, and additional innovative concepts. The most promising TECH Challenge proposals can win a cumulative value of up to $1 million a year, including in-kind support, to develop and further their projects. Submissions for TECH Challenge V will be accepted through June 6, 2018.

The series is operated and managed on behalf of Football Research, Inc. (FRI) by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI). For more information, go to

“This program offers more than grants. It’s an opportunity to work closely with our team at Duke CTSI to help get a new idea or technology off the ground and into the marketplace,” said Barry Myers, MD, PhD, MBA, director of Innovation for Duke CTSI, the Coulter Program director, professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and a consultant to the NFL Players Association. “I am excited by the progress range of proposals we’ve seen throughout the series, and I encourage all inventors and entrepreneurs to submit their ideas for TECH Challenge V.”

On March 29, the NFL and FRI announced the three winners of the HeadHealthTECH Challenge III, which received more than $300,000 in grant money:

  • HRL Laboratories of Malibu, California, received a grant of $186,043 to support development and testing of its novel impact-attenuating pads for football helmets. HRL’s three-dimensional lattice padding aims to offer improved volumetric energy absorption compared to existing vinyl nitrile foam pads.
  • Impressio, Inc., of Denver, Colorado, in partnership with the University of Colorado, Denver, received a grant of $121,949 to support development and testing of its ultra-dissipative football helmet padding made from liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs). LCEs create novel dissipative liner materials for protective equipment designed to overcome the existing challenges of energy absorption in current helmet foams.
  • AES Research & Design of Baltimore, Maryland, received a grant of up to $20,000 for the testing of its anti-rotational kinematic (ARK) helmet prototype, which is designed to significantly reduce the rotational forces that a football player experiences during contact. The ARK helmet is a collaborative project involving the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute at Johns Hopkins University, National Technical Systems and several material suppliers.

A panel of expert judges selected by Duke CTSI, in collaboration with FRI, reviewed and provided feedback all proposals. Every TECH Challenge applicant is invited to reapply and receives constructive feedback from Duke CTSI biomechanical experts to help refine innovations and increase chances for success on future submissions.

Challenge IV winners are expected to be announced in June. So far, the TECH Challenges have rewarded more than $960,000 in grants to help advance the development of eight new technologies.

The HeadHealthTECH Challenge series is one component of the Play Smart, Play Safe Engineering Roadmap, a $60-million comprehensive effort—funded by the NFL and managed by FRI—to improve the understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries in professional football and to create incentives for helmet manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and others to develop and commercialize new and improved protective equipment, including helmets.