DARPA initiative looks to push the limits of science, engineering

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Defense Sciences Office has launched a new initiative in its quest for high-risk technologies, releasing a Broad Agency Announcement calling for submissions on groundbreaking research.

The office identifies and pursues high-risk/high-payoff research projects with a broad focus on physical sciences and engineering in order to develop new military capabilities. The current BAA is soliciting research concepts relevant to national security and defense.

The office’s current portfolio encompasses a variety of academic fields, and the BAA is seeking responses related to five focus areas:

Physical sciences: Pushing the limits of physics and chemistry to develop unique capabilities such as advanced armor concepts, quantum information and new measurement methods.

Mathematics: Using advanced mathematics to accelerate development in physics, chemistry, and materials science, as well as creating predictive models to measure complex systems.

Transformative materials: Examining structural properties to deliver improved performance in areas such as robotics manufacturing and nano-scale and micro-scale assembly.

Supervised Autonomy: Developing hardware and software to create autonomous capabilities that might include intelligent decision-making and miniaturized command and control processes. 

Novel sensing and detection enabled by new science: Developing new approaches to sensing chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive devices and materials.

Complexity: Exploring complex systems in order to accelerate discovery. For instance, investigating new techniques to model complex physical systems, or creating high precision analytical representations of complex science and engineering systems.

DSO was created in 1980 to manage the agency’s research programs in materials science, Earth sciences and neurotechnology. While current topics remain true to the office’s original intent, the office has adapted to new and growing technologies and created new offices with distinct research areas – namely the Microsystems Technology Office and the new Biological Technologies Office that was created earlier this year.  

“The Defense Sciences Office is an intrinsically adaptive organization,” Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, who became DSO’s director on April 1, said in a DARPA release. “We have only a couple of certainties to guide our work: Global technology capabilities will continue to grow rapidly, regardless of who drives them, and the already-complex national security environment will continue to change and diversify.”

According to the announcement, proposers can submit a full proposal, proposal abstract or executive summary, but are recommended to submit an executive summary first in order to determine interest from the office.  DSO is explicitly interested in new technologies – not incremental advances of state-of-the-art technologies.

The agency will hold a proposers’ day on June 19-20 to provide additional information.

Executive summaries are due next year on May 1, proposal abstracts on May 18, and full proposals on June 16, exactly one year from the posting date of the announcement.

The full BAA can be found here.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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