​​$2 Million in NFL Funding Now Available to Help Innovators Create a New, Top-Performing Football Helmet for Submission to the NFL Helmet Challenge

Submission window open through March 23, 2020 to support NFL Helmet Challenge applicants

The National Football League (NFL) today announced the submission window is now open for innovators, engineers and entrepreneurs to apply for up to $2 million in grant funding to support the creation of a new, top-performing football helmet. Grantees will then use the funds to create helmet prototypes to be submitted as part of the previously announced NFL Helmet Challenge, a contest with an additional prize of $1 million.

The $2 million funding is an extension of the NFL’s HeadHealthTECH Challenge funding series. Applications for those funds are being accepted through March 23, 2020, and grants will be awarded in May 2020.

Last week marked the official start of the NFL Helmet Challenge, an innovation challenge that aims to stimulate the development of a new helmet for NFL players that outperforms, in laboratory testing, all helmet models currently worn by NFL players. The NFL teamed up with America Makes, a manufacturing innovation institute specializing in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, to host a symposium in Youngstown, Ohio that brought together 300 engineers, manufacturing experts and innovators from across the country for three days of information-sharing and collaboration.

The symposium provided applicants with background on the current state of the science around helmets and head injuries in the NFL and information on the challenge and available resources. Sessions included discussion of how to successfully apply for the $2 million grant funding.

“We are energized by the participation and collaboration of the group that came together to listen, learn and make connections at the symposium,” said Jeff Miller, Executive Vice President of Health and Safety Innovations. “The enthusiasm and rigor with which these entrepreneurs, innovators and experts from a wide range of industries are already approaching this challenge is inspiring. We look forward to seeing how their revolutionary innovations may impact the future of the game and are proud to support them in that pursuit.”

As part of the NFL’s Engineering Roadmap, the league works with leading biomechanical engineers, including Dr. Jeff Crandall, head of the NFL’s Engineering Committee, and Dr. Barry Myers, who manages the HeadHealthTECH Challenges. Dr. Crandall and his team of biomechanical engineers collected comprehensive video review data of player impacts to better understand concussion-causing events. They then used this data to create a toolkit to help design modern football helmets, including impact test dummy components and test conditions simulating on-field impacts. These tools were shared with attendees at the symposium to inform their helmet submissions.

Former football coaches and players including Jim Tressel, President of Youngstown State University and former Ohio State University head football coach, and Shawn Springs, former NFL cornerback-turned-entrepreneur, discussed design aspects that make helmets comfortable and wearable for players, an important criterion by which all NFL Helmet Challenge prototype submissions will be evaluated.

The symposium concluded with a panel discussion on “How to Win the NFL Helmet Challenge – The Million Dollar Question.” A variety of speakers including past winners of NFL innovation challenges, biomechanical engineers and manufacturing and materials experts shared their expertise.

“You need to design a team, then you need to design a plan, then you need to design a helmet,” Dr. Crandall told the audience of innovators during the panel. “We are looking for transformational change, and we think it’s achievable.”

“By leveraging the additive manufacturing expertise of the Youngstown ecosystem and our national consortium of members, the NFL and America Makes are able to bring together multiple disciplines to drive innovation forward,” said Erin O’Donnell, America Makes Director of Partnerships & Community Relations. “We believe this collaboration is key in supporting the NFL’s goal of improving player health and safety. We are proud to be part of such a significant project and to bring this opportunity to our members.”

For more information about how to enter the NFL Helmet Challenge, including how to apply for a HeadHealthTECH Challenge grant to help fund an eventual prototype submission, visit playsmartplaysafe.com/nflhelmetchallenge.