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The NFL, GE and Under Armour Partner with NIST for Material Innovation Challenge

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The National Football League (NFL), General Electric (GE) and Under Armour announced last week that they have joined forces with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to launch Head Health Challenge III, an open innovation competition to advance materials that better absorb and dissipate energy, according to the NIST website.

The new materials in the challenge could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel or anyone in a high-risk occupation.

The challenge could award up to $2 million for pioneering materials and is part of the $60 million Head Health Initiative — a multiyear collaboration between GE and the NFL, NIST said. The initiative launched in March 2013 and includes a four-year, $40 million research and development program from GE and the NFL to develop next generation imaging technologies to monitor brain injuries.

“Through the Head Health Challenge III partnership, we want to engage the most creative technical experts to identify advanced materials that improve the health and safety of athletes, soldiers, and first responders,” Willie May, acting NIST director and undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology said. “We’re glad to be joining the strong collaboration already established by the NFL, GE, and Under Armour in finding solutions to this important national challenge. Public-private partnerships such as this are essential to NIST’s mission to foster innovation.”

NIST’s goal is to cultivate standard testing methods for the material systems in the coming years. It plans to refine measurement approaches for the challenge by convening the research and industry communities to assess the current state of performance testing for impact energy materials.

Entries in the challenge will be judged by experts in the field of materials and science. Six winners will be selected to receive a $250,000 award to advance their work in developing technologies. One out of the six winners will receive an additional $500,000 to further develop their technology.

“We welcome the partnership and expertise of NIST in our efforts to bring together the smartest scientists, innovators and engineers to tackle this challenge. Partnerships like the one we have with the NFL, Under Armour — and now NIST — accelerates development, meaning better materials for preventing injury, better tools for physicians, and better treatments for patients,” Alan Gilbert, director of healthymagination at GE, said.

“Partnering with NIST is a natural progression for the Head Health Initiative. Through this collaboration, NIST will explore new testing and standards for angular impacts incurred in sport,” Kevin Haley, Under Armour’s senior vice president of innovation, said. “Additionally, by identifying new impact mitigating materials we’re aiming to improve overall head health.”

Applications for the challenge opened on Monday and must be submitted by March 13.

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