Story by Matt Gonzales on 08/29/2019MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.Marine Corps Systems Command completed its second of a series of prize challenges in August, awarding cash to two businesses for their innovative ideas in creating knee and elbow pad protection for the warfighter.
The Knee and Elbow Pad Equipment Challenge called for innovators to submit ideas for replacing the Corps' current knee and elbow padding. From May to July, MCSC received creative prototypes from various organizationsbut two companies stood out from the rest.
Team G-Form, known for their padding technology for athletes, was the overall winning team, receiving $4,000. Team Viconic Defensea Michigan-based company whose technology supports military vehicleswon the innovation prize and took home $1,000.
"We really wanted to explore the innovative market," said Guy Callahan, the project officer for Cold Weather Clothing and Equipment in MCSC's Infantry Combat Equipment program office. "The challenge enables new chemistry that affords a greater type of protection for knees and elbows."
MCSC sought a padding solution to provide greater comfort and blunt-force protection that integrates into the Corps' uniform, without compromising marksmanship, said Callahan. Based on the physical submissions received, a panel of Marines concluded that Team G-Force demonstrated the greatest overall potential for padding.
"G-Form is honored to win Marine Corps Systems Command's Knee and Elbow Pads Challenge," said Glen Giovanucci, the company's chief executive officer. "We pride ourselves in developing the best impact protection that is truly comfortable to wear. This recognition is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our research and development, and factory operations teams."
Team G-Form's mission is to provide innovative gear comfortable enough to wear and strong enough to prevent injury. The company is an active participant in the Semper Fi Fund annual event in Grass Valley, California, and will donate their $4,000 prize to this event.
Many of the innovation submissions shared similar concepts. However, the panel decided that Team Viconic Defense offered the most cutting-edge solution and blunt-force protection. The company expressed appreciation for the recognition.
"It's an honor for Viconic to win the Innovation Prize of the U. S. Marine Corps Knee and Elbow Pad Equipping Challenge," said J.B. Audi, vice president for Viconic Defense. "Viconic is pleased to partner with the Marine Corps in the goal of better protecting our warfighters."
Since 2010, the federal government has conducted more than 1,000 challenges and has awarded prizes to everyone from students to small business owners, according to challenge.gov. The Prize Challenge offers to the program office a cost-effective market research vehicle to identify the current market space.
In April, MCSC awarded monetary prizes for ideas to improve the Corps' helmet retention system.
"These challenges offer some really cool, cutting-edge concepts," said Callahan. "We get some very creative submissions."
The competition leveled the playing field for smaller businesses with whom the Corps does not traditionally work, said Callahan. He said prize challenges spark interest in many innovators and give them an opportunity to support the warfighter.
"That is a significant benefit of these challenges," said Callahan. "It gets your nontraditional market players out in the open."
The prize challenge winners demonstrated the potential to use nontraditional materials to improve comfort and impact protection. Further research and development is required to determine the best method for integrating improvements into existing knee and elbow pads.