Federal Agencies, FirstNet Announce $1M Challenge for Disaster Technology
Thursday, October 24, 2019 | Comments

Three U.S. Department of Commerce agencies have launched a first-of-its-kind interagency challenge focused on accelerating innovations for disaster response and resilience technology.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA), in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), announced the Accelerate R2 Network Challenge. The program is a $1 million grant challenge to address the nation’s most pressing disaster response and resiliency (R2) challenges with innovative technologies.

“Never is the link between public-safety response and economic impact more prevalent than during a disaster,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming. “The R2 Challenge will create new economic opportunities including jobs and private sector investment as well as increase resilience to future disasters.”

The Accelerate R2 Network Challenge is designed to connect stakeholders in the disaster response and resiliency industries from across the country to accelerate the pace of technological innovation in the markets for:
• Response innovation. Innovation in the communications, technology and equipment first responders use when responding to disasters and events
• Resiliency innovation. Finding new ways to build, protect and connect networks and infrastructure to help communities recover and build readiness and resilience in the face of future disasters

“NIST conducts extensive research focusing on both disaster response and resiliency, so we are very excited about the potential for the R2 Network to support America’s strong innovation base and decrease the time for these technologies to transition from lab to market,” said Walter G. Copan, under secretary of commerce for standards and technology and NIST director.

The Accelerate R2 Network Challenge is seeking proposals from organizations to form networks on a national scale that will support innovation, entrepreneurship, research and investment in transformative technologies in the response and resiliency markets.

“FirstNet is public safety’s dedicated, nationwide communications platform,” said FirstNet Acting CEO Edward Parkinson. “It keeps responders and officials connected to the critical information they need during disasters, recovery efforts and beyond. Collaborating with EDA and NIST on the Accelerate R2 Network Challenge will connect and encourage organizations working to further drive innovations for the public-safety technology marketplace to help communities and the emergency responders that serve them.”

EDA is making up to $750,000 available in funding, and NIST is contributing up to $250,000 through its Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program to connect stakeholders engaged in advancing technologies used by first responders. FirstNet will provide program support and technical assistance as needed. Prospective applicants are encouraged to refer to the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on grants.gov, including eligibility, matching fund requirements, application and submission deadlines, and other information.

EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) is leading the administration of this new effort to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation.

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