NFL Launches $3 million challenge to create new helmet

The National Football League on Thursday announced the NFL Helmet Challenge, an innovation challenge that aims to stimulate the development by experts, innovators and helmet manufacturers of a new helmet for NFL players that outperforms, based on laboratory testing, all helmet models currently worn by NFL players. Up to $3 million will be available in the challenge, including $2 million in grant funding to support the development of a helmet prototype and a $1 million award.

A symposium will be held November 13-15 in Youngstown, Ohio, to kick off the challenge. Over three days, the symposium will bring together experts from different industries to share information and work collaboratively on innovative helmet ideas.

The challenge will culminate in May 2021 with the applicants submitting helmet prototypes for testing in laboratory conditions that represent potentially concussive impacts in the NFL. Applicants will compete for up to a $1 million award.

"Helmet technology is advancing at an impressive rate. Yet, we believe that even more is possible. The NFL Helmet Challenge represents an unprecedented combination of financing, research, data and engineering expertise in an effort to create a more protective helmet," said Jeff Miller, the NFL's Executive Vice President for Health and Safety Innovation. "Innovation can be catalyzed if we engage with creative and talented people from across disciplines to attack this challenge together. In collaboration with the NFL Players Association, we are making changes on and off the field in an effort to improve protection for every player. Trying to ensure that players wear the best possible helmet is a substantial part of that commitment."

This challenge is the next phase in the league's Engineering Roadmap, which aims to improve the understanding of football biomechanics and to create incentives for businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and helmet manufacturers to develop new protective equipment. Between the kickoff symposium in November and the submission of helmets for final evaluation in May 2021, applicants will have access to a range of resources to support the development of their helmet prototype, including up to $2 million in HeadHealthTECH Challenge grant funding. Other available resources will include those developed through the Engineering Roadmap, such as NFL video review data and finite element models of modern football helmets. To encourage broad participation, the league is also offering grant funding to certain requesting university students and faculty to offset travel costs associated with attending the symposium.

The league will team up with Youngstown-based America Makes, a manufacturing innovation institute specializing in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, to host the November kickoff symposium. The symposium agenda will include background on the current state of the science around helmets and certain concussions in the NFL, information on the challenge and available resources and breakout sessions to stimulate networking, team building and the creation of successful grant applications.

To request an invitation to attend, applicants should visit: Registration for the symposium is open until October 2.

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