NIST, FirstNet Launch $1M Disaster Recovery Tech Challenge

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), along with the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), on Oct. 24 launched their Accelerate R2 Network Challenge.

The challenge will award a $1 million grant to “address the nation’s most pressing disaster response and resiliency (R2) challenges with innovative technologies.”

In a press release, the Commerce Department said that 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; and
  • 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.

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

The challenge is interested in 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, which is building a nationwide broadband network for public safety organizations, weighed in on the importance of encouraging innovation in the public safety space.

“[FirstNet] keeps responders and officials connected to the critical information they need during disasters, recovery efforts, and beyond,” said Edward Parkinson, acting CEO of the organization. “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.”

The funding for the challenge is coming from EDA, which is offering up $750,000, and NIST, which is providing the remaining $250,000 through its Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program. For its part, FirstNet will provide program support and technical assistance.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to refer to the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on grants.gov. The notice includes eligibility, matching-fund requirements, application, and submission deadlines.

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