WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory, along with the governing council of the Nano-Bio Materials Consortium (NBMC), has approved a pilot program to enable AFRL researchers to partner with industry collaborators to address key capability and technology gaps in support of human performance monitoring and aeromedical evacuation missions. In the new program, industry leaders can submit NBMC proposals with an option to partner with ARFL researchers, thereby linking industry capabilities to in-house AFRL competencies.
NBMC will publicly release a request for proposals (RFP) in mid-September 2020 for projects designed to accelerate Smart MedTech innovations in health monitoring, diagnostics and performance augmentation. The RFP will include four focused solicitations and an open solicitation for concepts in wearable or mobile human-monitoring and diagnostic applications. Investigators interested in the program should submit whitepapers to the RFP and indicate their interest in co-developing a project with an AFRL collaborator. If selected, and an appropriate AFRL research team is connected, both teams will work together to submit full proposals to the consortium and compete for an award. The NBMC technical and governing councils will review all proposals and award recipients will be announced in early 2021.
Since 2013, AFRL, in partnership with SEMI, has led NMBC, a community of researchers from industry, government and academia. NMBC’s purpose is to enable collaboration on the development of new technologies that have the potential to improve human performance monitoring and augmentation capabilities. However, with this new program, Air Force scientists will get an opportunity to more closely engage with industrial entities as co-developers of new technologies.
“This is an experiment,” said 2nd Lt. Suren Uswatta, NMBC’s Government Technical Lead. “If it is successful, it could demonstrate a new model of co-development programs for AFRL and industry, moving forward. We at AFRL will be able to collaborate with industrial partners to address their key gaps in emerging technologies, something that is core to our mission as Air Force scientists.”
NMBC’s research concentrates on the development of nano-bio materials. The goal is to use these materials, which are smaller than one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair, to make devices that close the gap between science and actual working technology. That technology includes small, sometimes wearable, devices for monitoring human biomarkers, such as blood pressure and biochemical levels, to assess physical performance or to help treat and prevent diseases.
“This is a great opportunity for industry teams to benefit from Air Force mission-centric research and will include AFRL subject matter experts within their development teams,” said Dr. Jeremy Ward, government lead for NBMC. “Not only will industry teams have access to our technical capabilities and expertise, but teams comprising Air Force and industry scientists will be better positioned for integrated partnerships that are key to both organizations while also exploring a new model for enabling technology transfer between AFRL and industry.”
“We hope that this initiative will spur the growth of a vigorous AFRL and industry partnership program that will help expedite the development of mission-critical technologies for the Airmen,” said Dr. Gaurav Sharma, member of NBMC Governing Council. He added, “Having experts from industry working closely with AFRL investigators will help remove any uncertainty and encourage more industrial participation, especially new investigators and start-ups who have not worked with us before.”
Uswatta adds that AFRL’s direct involvement in the research will also ensure that the end product meets the Air Force’s expectations as outlined in the RFP. Teaming up in this manner also gives the participating industry an opportunity for accelerated technology exposure into relevant Air Force environments.
Some, but not all, of the AFRL capabilities that are accessible through this program are advanced materials (for example, 2D materials and liquid electronics), advanced processing and integration methods (for example, additive manufacturing and photonic processing), human biomarker discovery and biosensor development (for example, biomarker characterization in different biofluids), and biomaterials and synthetic biology (for example, programmable, self-assembled optical and composite materials).
AFRL has many more capabilities within these categories. More information about those additional areas of expertise will be available through the “Ask Me Anything” webinar.
The RFP will include instructions on how to access the webinar, which will provide more information on the co-development pilot program. To learn more about the RFP or pilot program, please contact 2nd Lt. Suren Uswatta at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on NBMC, visit https://www.semi.org/en/communities/nbmc. Anyone interested in receiving the RFP may sign-up here: https://tinyurl.com/yynqgu4c.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force and Space Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.