Army Offers Cash Prizes for Ideas on How to Speed Ventilator Production

A pallet of ventilators is prepared for shipment to New York.
Oregon Army National Guard Soldier 2nd Lt. Steven Tjoelker prepares a shipment of 140 ventilators to be sent to New York on April 5, 2020. (Oregon Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Holden, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

The U.S. Army's acquisition czar recently launched a competition for companies to present solutions to rapidly produce ventilators needed for the response to the deadly novel coronavirus.

Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology, has directed the Army Expeditionary Technology Search (xTechSearch) program team to host the COVID-19 Ventilator Challenge to find ideas for a low-cost, emergency ventilator that requires minimal components and is designed for simplified mass production, according to a recent service news release.

The competition is open to any business and is offering cash prizes ranging from $5,000 to $100,000, according to the release.

Related: DoD to Provide 5 Million Masks, 2,000 Ventilators to States from Strategic Reserves

"The technology solution must provide a rapid-response breathing apparatus capable of short-term, rugged field operation in a small footprint that will support field hospitals," Zeke Topolosky, Army xTechSearch program manager, said in the release.

Ventilators come in different sizes and help mechanically pump oxygen into the body through an air tube.

"COVID-19 can inflame your airways and essentially drown your lungs in fluids," according to "A ventilator doesn't cure COVID-19 or other illnesses that caused your breathing problem. It helps you survive until you get better and your lungs can work on their own."

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States recently surpassed 489,000, and the demand for ventilators continues to rise.

In late March, President Donald Trump invoked the rarely used Defense Production Act to force General Motors to manufacture ventilators at one of its auto plants.

In mid-March, Defense Secretary Mark Esper pledged to provide 2,000 portable ventilators to states trying to cope with the rising number of cases of the deadly virus as intensive care units run short of the devices.

Companies interested in participating in the COVID-19 Ventilator Challenge should be prepared to deliver a virtual pitch of their concepts within one week after submission, according to the release.

The prize competition will evaluate technology proposals immediately upon submission and will award novel solutions with a prize of $5,000 to present a virtual pitch of the technology concept to the Army xTechSearch COVID-19 panel of judges, it adds.

Cash prizes of $100,000 will be awarded to solutions accepted by the panel to develop a concept prototype, the release states. Select technologies may receive follow-on contracts for additional production and deployment.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

Read More: States Demand Ventilators as Feds Ration Limited Supply

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