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NFL Announces Crowd-Sourced Challenge to Further Improve Safety and Consistency of Playing Surfaces

$100,000 HealthTECH Challenge I Open to Submissions From Experts on Playing Fields and Beyond

NEW YORKNov. 16, 2023 — The NFL today announced the HealthTECH Challenge I, a crowd-sourced challenge to accelerate innovations that can help make playing surfaces more consistent and safer for players.

Held in partnership with Football Research, Inc. (FRI) and Duke Biomedical Engineering (Duke BME), the Challenge invites submissions that address several possible elements of natural and synthetic playing surface safety. These include:

  • New or improved field maintenance techniques.
  • Equipment that reduces variability across the surface and/or over time.
  • Methodologies to prolong the viability of natural grass surfaces in NFL stadiums.
  • Topical treatments for synthetic surfaces that improve traction for players.
  • Equipment to protect playing surfaces during non-sporting events.
  • Field usage monitoring technologies.

HealthTECH Challenge I will provide up to $100,000 to entrants with ideas that further improve the safety and consistency of playing surfaces. The individuals or groups who submit projects that are selected for funding will have the opportunity to work with an expert support team to further develop their concept and plan for creating a finished product.

In addition to companies that currently specialize in playing surfaces, the Challenge is open to submissions from companies and new ventures from outside the surface industry, including representatives of academic institutions, design houses and other entities that specialize in engineering, advanced manufacturing and material science.

Timeline for Challenge:

  • Nov. 16, 2023 to Feb. 20, 2024: Submission window open. Applications can be submitted here (more details are available in the official rules).
  • March-April 2024: Review by Duke BME and a panel of expert judges established jointly by Duke BME and FRI.
  • April 2024: Deadline for a selection of finalists and oral presentations on the submissions.
  • May 2024: Final selection.
  • May 2024-May 2025: Funding period.

The full Request for Applications is available for review here.

"Our goal for this challenge is to generate fresh and creative ideas to complement our ongoing efforts to create the best possible playing surfaces for NFL players that is consistent and safe," said Jennifer Langton, senior vice president of health and safety innovation at the NFL. "Crowd-sourced challenges like this one are a unique opportunity to tap into a wide range of expertise and make the game safer for players on the field."

"With a topic as complex as playing surfaces in the NFL, we believe this unique challenge will breed innovation and present new perspectives and solutions towards the improvement of playing surfaces across our league and throughout sports," said Nick Pappas, field director for the NFL.

HealthTECH Challenge I is part of the HealthTECH Challenges (previously known as the HeadHealthTECH Challenges), a series of innovation challenges intended to deepen understanding of and advance solutions in the areas of head protection, lower extremity protection, materials science and kinematic measurement, among others.

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Kelly Langmesser,