Science and Technology

March 28, 2017
Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Today I congratulate the winners of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) Think and Do Challenge. With this challenge, our second prize competition under the America COMPETES Act, we provided another opportunity for America’s thinkers, doers and entrepreneurs to get involved in the future of our nation’s security. In this case, it was to jumpstart development of an ecosystem of collaborative, innovative partnerships for the NBAF.

The NBAF will be fully operational in 2022, but we strongly believe the future cannot wait. To make sure we are prepared with a network of system-level capabilities on day one, it is essential we focus on building a foundation of meaningful partner connections now.

Our goal with the ‘Think and Do Challenge’ was to identify and support the best ideas for solutions to jumpstart our vision for NBAF’s future as a world-class research facility that features an ecosystem of partnerships and connections. These are lofty goals, but the concept was simple: If you have a good idea that can ‘answer the mail, ’ we want to hear about it. More importantly, we want you to get out there and do it.

From a pool of over 200 registered solvers and dozens of submissions, we selected two winners: the Manhattan Area Technical College (MATC) and DynaSim Technical Services, Inc.

The MATC, known for its interactive technical training, was awarded $53, 106 to develop a curriculum and assessment to help prepare future NBAF workers for the challenges associated with working in maximum biocontainment. The NBAF will include the nation’s first and only lab environment equipped with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) maximum biocontainment capabilities for conducting animal disease research on large animals.

DynaSim Technical Services, Inc., was awarded $39, 200 to help us establish a data management framework for collaborative research. In the coming weeks, we will connect them with our NBAF program’s research teams to develop and pilot these efforts.

The $1.25 billion NBAF is one of DHS’s highest priority investments. Once operational, it will be a true next-gen capability and national asset, helping to fill persistent gaps in animal disease research. Science and technological innovations in this mission space will be the force multipliers that help protect our food supply, economy, and the nation’s public health.

There is still much work to be done. We will continue to use our entire toolset to reach new and non-traditional partners, and leverage best practices to bring together government, academia and industry in the spirit of innovation. By the time the NBAF is operational, we expect to see a collection of partners and active contributors forming a consortium of supportive capabilities.

As S&T works to find the right mix of relationships and functions to support NBAF in the future, we place essential focus now on forging connections with our stakeholders. The ‘Think and Do Challenge’ shows we can use the prize format to seed combinations of knowledge and resources, and forge new connections that support the NBAF’s mission.

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