National Football League


NFL HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI

Be a part of the NFL innovation engine stimulating industry-disrupting advancements in player safety.
$1,000,000 per year


Help design the future of protective equipment


The National Football League (NFL) and Football Research, Inc. (FRI) partnered with Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI) to create the HeadHealthTECH Challenges. The TECH Challenges are an opportunity to showcase your thinking, solutions and novel approaches to improving protective equipment—and to join a community of experts and innovators passionate about safety in sports. Challenges V, VI and VII will be hosted in 2018.

The following focus areas are especially encouraged:

  • Improvements in helmet and/or the surfaces that helmets contact (e.g., turf, grass, other helmets, opponent padding, including shoulders, etc.);
  • Ready-to-deploy material advances;
  • Studies that define the range of exposures (e.g., location, speed of impact, frequency of impact) that can be used to improve test protocols for helmet development; and,
  • Studies that elucidate the optimal stress strain properties of helmet materials.

The HeadHealthTECH Challenges will dedicate funds to those with the most promising ideas. Winners will be eligible to receive funding from a total award pool of up to $1 million USD per year to further advance their proposed technology. Every TECH Challenge applicant also receives constructive feedback and mentoring from Duke CTSI biomechanical and biomedical engineering experts to help refine innovations and increase their chances for success on future submissions.


The Engineering Roadmap

The HeadHealthTECH Challenge series is one component of the Play Smart. Play Safe. Engineering Roadmap, a $60-million comprehensive effort—funded by the NFL and managed by FRI—to improve the understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries in professional football and to create incentives for helmet manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and others to develop and commercialize new and improved protective equipment, including helmets.


Elevate Your Entry: New engineering resources for football helmet design

As part of the Engineering Roadmap, FRI continues to share research, data, tools, and information to crowdsource and stimulate innovation in protective equipment. In May, FRI released an open-source toolkit including finite element models of modern football helmets, impact test dummy components, and test conditions simulating on-field impacts. The finite element models are now available to the public as a platform and baseline resource for injury prevention research and to stimulate the development of novel and highly effective helmet designs and prototypes. Leading biomechanical engineers have also completed a comprehensive video review of player impacts to better understand concussion-causing events. The toolkit and the video review data are available for engineers and entrepreneurs to help improve equipment designs.


Click ACCEPT CHALLENGE above to learn more.



Challenge Updates

Challenge VI Winners Announced!

March 27, 2019, 1 p.m. PDT by Liz Treadwell


Two start-ups granted nearly a quarter million dollars to develop helmet protection technology 

The National Football League (NFL) and Football Research, Inc. (FRI) announced the winners of HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI. Windpact and Auxadyne will receive funding to advance their innovative technologies for use in football helmets. To date, the TECH Challenges have awarded grants to help advance the development of 13 new technologies. 
Read the full news release here.

HeadHealthTech Challenge V Winner Announcement!

Nov. 30, 2018, 3:15 p.m. PST by Liz Treadwell


The National Football League (NFL) and Football Research, Inc. (FRI) today announced the winner of HeadHealthTECH Challenge V, the latest in the TECH Challenge series, which is operated on behalf of FRI by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI): Congratulations, Cardiff University!  Cardiff offers a unique metamaterial designed using complex computer simulations to achieve optimal performance.  Advanced 3D printing materials and technologies then provides the potential to manufacture helmet liner pads that achieve more effective cushioning across a range of collisions.   This is an exciting moment for the HeadHealthTECH and PlaySmartPlaySafe program, as Cardiff represents the first international winner.


Read the full news release here.


The TECH Challenge series is part of the NFL’s Engineering Roadmap—a $60-million comprehensive effort to spur advances in helmet technology and equipment. The series is operated and managed on behalf of FRI by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI).


For HeadHealthTECH Challenge V, a panel of expert judges selected by Duke CTSI, in collaboration with FRI, reviewed and provided feedback on all proposals. Every TECH Challenge applicant receives constructive feedback from Duke CTSI biomechanical experts to help refine innovations and increase chances for success on future submissions.  HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI proposals are currently under review.


Learn More:

Information about TECH Challenges and the process for making a submission can be found at:


Take Your Tech to the Next Level:

As part of greater NFL Engineer Roadmap, the NFL and Biocore recently announced the release of finite element model of the 2017 Vicis 01 Helmet Model (Safety Equipment Institute Model 01).  The model can be downloaded from the Biocore resources website here.

Today's the last day!

Sept. 13, 2018, 12:59 p.m. PDT by Liz Treadwell

If you're still assembling your submission, you have exactly 8 hours left to complete it!

Here's a Tip: HeroX recommends innovators plan to submit with at least a 3-hour window of time before the true deadline. Last-minute technical problems and unforeseen roadblocks have been the cause of many headaches. Don't let that be you!

Ready to submit? Visit Duke University's portal here to send in your HeadHealthTECH solution

If you need to review the guidelines before submitting, you can do so here.

Good luck!

2 days left!

Sept. 11, 2018, 5:30 p.m. PDT by Liz Treadwell

This is your official two-day reminder!

That's right, the NFL HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI will be closing this coming Thursday, September 13th at exactly 8:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time

Ready to submit your solution? Visit the HeadHealthTECH page here to do so. Please be sure to complete your submission form well before the exact cut-off time. You can also view the submission guidelines here.

Got questions?

Now is the time to speak up! Comment directly on this update with any questions about the submission process and we'll get back to you right away!

The HeadHealthTECH VI webinar recording is now available!

Aug. 24, 2018, 3:15 p.m. PDT by Liz Treadwell

Did you miss the HeadHealthTECH VI live webinar? No problem! The recording is now available here.


To those of you who attended, thank you for taking time to participate in the HeadHealthTECH Challenge VI webinar on August 14th. We hope the interactive discussion with our hosts—Dr. Barry Myers, Director of Innovation at Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI), and Jennifer Langton, Vice President of Health and Safety at the National Football League (NFL)— helped you learn more about the TECH Challenge series, and how the NFL and Duke CTSI, among others, are committed to partnering with and investing in disruptive technologies to advance player safety.

We also hope hearing from past Challenge winners, Chris Yakacki of Impressio and Sander Reynolds of Corsair Innovations, helped demonstrate how this program acts as a catalyst to accelerate each winner’s innovation and commercial success—as well as how they channeled feedback from unsuccessful submissions into winning results. 


If you have any questions or comments, you can contact the HeroX team at