Though the competitors won’t have household names like Mark Cuban judging their pitches, for a few select finalists, the results could be very much the same at this year’s Defense TechConnect (DTC) 2022 Innovation Summit & Expo. The tenth anniversary of the forum, which serves as a bridge for private sector innovation, commercialization, and government acquisition, will feature six Innovation Challenges that are focused on accelerating the identification, development, and deployment of cutting-edge technologies in support of the National Defense Strategy.

The summit is set to begin on Tuesday, September 27 with a “National Infrastructure Innovation Challenge,” followed by the “America’s DataHub Innovation Challenge;” while Wednesday will include the “Medical Innovation” and “Urban Air Mobility” challenges. The summit wraps up on Thursday with the “Readiness Innovation Challenge” and “Security Innovation Challenge.”

DTC has become one of the most well-attended defense innovation conferences of the year, and attendees include hundreds of key science and technology military leaders, more than 250 DoD/SES/PEO scouts, representatives from over 50 contracting offices, and hundreds of active-duty service members. 

Swimming With the Sharks?

Each Innovation Challenge will feature Shark Tank-style sessions that include 20-25 innovation pitches by startups, universities, and national labs to industry and government leadership aligned with participating contracting vehicles. Each presenter will have just eight minutes to pitch their innovation. The six Innovation Challenges will award a total $500,000 in cash prizes.

Winners will also be provided access to more than $50 billion in prototype-level contracting authority for government customers. In addition to the cash prizes, each winner is also invited to join a consortium led by ATI, one of the single largest funders of prototype-level innovations for its government customers and the nation.

The Innovation Challenges are meant to change the way start-ups can get their ideas in front of key decision makers.

“TechConnect aligns each of the Innovation Challenges with DOD target areas of interest, while simultaneously partnering each Challenge with existing ATI managed technology consortia and associated Other Transaction Authority (OTA) funding vehicles,” explained Matthew Laudon, vice president of the TechConnect division of Advanced Technology International (ATI), the organizer of Defense TechConnect.

“Top-ranked innovators are invited to pitch directly to a panel of government and industry expert judges during the event in September,” Laudon told ClearanceJobs. “Through this model, TechConnect delivers a pipeline of top private-sector non-traditional innovators directly into participating OT Consortia and their government customers.”

This year there were roughly 800 submissions from teams looking to take part in the Innovation Challenges, and approximately 200 of those teams will be showcasing their technologies. Around 100 were selected to pitch in one of the six Prize Challenges.

“Each team submits an innovation/business description which includes a range of technology and organization details. Each submission is reviewed, ranked, and rated by participating experts, and top-ranked technologies are invited to pitch during the event for on-site feedback and judging,” said Laudon.

“We find that most all private-sector innovations submitted into our Challenges have some parallel dual-use application somewhere within DoD interests,” he continued. “Our goal is to provide the DoD with access to the nation’s best technologies while introducing these potentially government-shy private-sector innovators with an easy engagement onramp with the DoD and other federal end users.”

Session Spotlight

*National Infrastructure Innovation Challenge: This challenge offers a $25,000 prize for innovations in energy security, advanced networks, rare earth applications, resilient infrastructure, smart mobility and climate resilience; it directly aligns with the nation’s investments through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and offers a $50,000 prize sponsored by three consortia: Resilient Infrastructure & Secure Energy Consortium (RISE), National Spectrum Consortium (NSC) and Consortium for Rare Earth Technologies (CREaTe).

*America’s DataHub Innovation Challenge: This challenge offers a $25,000 prize for innovative tools of new data integration and distribution solutions, data linking and data security, and privacy; it is the first-ever innovation acceleration challenge for America’s DataHub Consortium (ADC), which represents the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

September 28

*Medical Innovation Challenge: The world’s largest medical innovation acceleration and awards program, this challenge features a $200,000 prize for innovations in devices and sensors, digital and hardware, therapeutics and treatments, materials and manufacturing, and readiness and response; it is aligned with four leading medtech consortia representing more than $20 billion in health technology contracting authority: Medical CBRN Defense Consortium (MCDC), Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Consortium (CWMD), Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC), Senior Healthcare Innovation Consortium (SHIC).

*Urban Air Mobility Challenge: This challenge offers a $50,000 prize for innovations in electric vertical take-off and landing, power generation and storage, data and systems situational management, autonomous and collaborative technologies and air mobility capabilities and applications; it is sponsored by the Vertical Lift Consortium (VLC), the nation’s leading organization rapidly transitioning innovative aviation technologies for the U.S. government.

September 29

*Readiness Innovation Challenge: This challenge offers a $50,000 prize for innovations in modeling, simulation and training for both civilian and national security applications, including gaming technologies, synthetic environments, human immersion, AR/VR, medical MS&T, data analytics, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, complex-domain systems, and experimentation and validation.

*Security Innovation Challenge: This challenge offers a $25,000 prize for innovations in identity management, including pattern recognition software, real-time analytics platforms, sensors, scanners, imaging, cybersecurity, data harmonization and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning; it is sponsored by the Homeland Security Technology Consortium (HSTC).

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.