The Army is offering up to $100,000 cash prizes for low-cost, rugged ventilator ideas from any American business, regardless of size, Army headquarters announced Thursday.

Mechanical ventilators have been in short supply throughout the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. The devices are critically needed for patients suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, who are unable to breathe without assistance.

The Army’s effort is aimed at quickly procuring ventilators as the service sets up field hospitals and builds makeshift medical facilities around the country.

The competition, entitled the “COVID-19 Ventilator Challenge,” is seeking ideas for an emergency ventilator with a simple design and minimal components. It also must be capable of mass production.

“Ideally, the technology would support field hospitals that are still acquiring critical infrastructure such as generators, power distribution and pressurized oxygen,” a problem statement for the competition reads.

Idea submissions should use standard hoses and fittings, be able to achieve respiratory rates of 0-60 beats per minute, use ambient air or low pressure oxygen, operate off generator power sources and be capable of triggering alarms in the event of power failures or other issues.

The competition will evaluate technology proposals immediately upon submission. Teams with novel solutions will be awarded $5,000 prizes and asked to submit virtual pitches to a panel of judges, an Army press release stated.

Cash prizes of $100,000 will be awarded to solutions chosen by the panel to develop a concept prototype, the release added.

Applicants can submit ideas here. They should be prepared to deliver a virtual pitch of their concepts within one week of submitting their proposal.

The first virtual pitch panels are scheduled to begin April 13. Companies can submit ideas at any time, however, and they will be reviewed upon receipt, the release said.

The xTechSearch program team is a competition format sponsored by the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology. Its goal is to solicit innovative technology ideas from small businesses.

Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.

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