The US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Israeli Ministry of Defense announced this week that, together with the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel, they have launched a competition for startups across the world developing technology aimed at fighting terrorism.
The contest, Combatting Terrorism Technology Startup Challenge (CTTSC), is the third such competition held in Israel, with the last challenge held in 2016 and the first in 2014. Startups this year are eligible for a total of $220,000 in prizes awarded by the Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) and the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Defense Research and Development Directorate.
“The contest reflects the realization that startups can play a game-changing role in combating the constantly evolving threat of global terrorism,” according to a press release announcing the competition. “As terrorists become ever more sophisticated, technological innovations become an increasingly critical component of detecting and defeating them.”
The challenge is divided into two fields: startups operating in the “General Technologies Track” which includes innovation in social media analytics, cybersecurity, surveillance and reconnaissance, drones and robotics, personal, data and infrastructure protection, detection of explosives, water contamination, and attack mitigation and recovery; and companies in the “Urban Navigation Technologies Track” with a focus on technology that enables navigation without GPS. The latter track is especially important for military, law and anti-terror forces who operate in “indoor, urban canyon, remote rural, and other environments” where GPS may not always be available.
“Entries in this track might include location services based on beacons, technologies incorporating pre-loaded maps, technologies that estimate a user’s position via dead-reckoning or step-counting, or any other technology for navigating or positioning with no GPS,” according to the announcement.
The contest is open to startups and entrepreneurs the world over but Israel was chosen as the location “because of the breadth, depth, and creativity of the local ecosystem,” said Adam Tarsi, the international program manager at the DOD’s CTTSO. “The best part of my relationship with Israel is the ability to find solutions that I wouldn’t have found in my own backyard,” he added.
Tarsi said the participating startups can “still make market, win resources, and be successful in their primary customer market while supporting US and Israeli government needs.”
The chairman of the contest, Gideon Miller says the challenge “reflects how governments are increasingly turning to the startup ecosystem which is able to develop and deploy innovations far faster and more cost-effectively than traditional large defense-contractors can.”
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Miller said the initiative also “reflects the trend of governments moving to adapt technologies from the commercial world, rather than developing solutions from scratch.”
The executive director of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel, Ayla Matalon said hundreds of applicants are expected to enter the contest for which the deadline is March 9. Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges from the DoD and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
The finalists will be announced in May and will present their technologies live at the Combating Terrorism Technology Conference at Tel Aviv University in June. Finalists in the “Urban Navigation Technologies Track” will also demonstrate their technologies in a dedicated urban navigation test facility in Israel.
The winners in each track will nab a $100,000 prize and the runner-ups will be awarded $10,000.
In 2016, Israeli startup Duke Robotics snagged first prize for its development of a “future soldier,” an advanced robotic systems technology. In 2014, Tel Aviv-based InSoundz won the top award for its patented sound technology that is “able to capture, index, analyze and deliver all audio content, with relevancy and clarity, from live events to any screen type.”