The goal of the NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge is to identify entrepreneurs and visionaries with innovative ideas that will lead to new instruments and technologies with the potential to advance the agency’s science mission goals. The NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge: 1) recognizes winning entrepreneurs with up to $1,000,000 in total prizes, 2) provides exposure to external funders and investors, and 3) offers insight into how entrepreneurs can work with NASA in the future. The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is particularly interested in reaching entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented communities, especially women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities, to partake in this challenge and future NASA explorations.
NASA has held Entrepreneurs Challenge events in 2020, 2021, and 2023. Each challenge solicited topics in specific focus areas:
- 2020 Entrepreneurs Challenge Focus Areas:
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence
- Mass spectrometry technology
- Quantum sensors
- 2021 Entrepreneurs Challenge Focus Areas:
- Small satellite capabilities
- Metamaterials-based sensor technologies
- Sample handling and processing technology
- 2023 Entrepreneurs Challenge Focus Areas:
- Lunar Surface Payloads
- Climate Science
The Entrepreneurs Challenge consists of various rounds. In Round 1, vendors submit a brief explanation of a solution that addresses one of the challenge focus areas. A panel of judges determines the Round 1 winners, who receive prize money and are eligible to compete in the subsequent round(s). Round 1 winners also receive feedback from NASA personnel regarding agency technology needs. In the subsequent round(s) vendors submit more detailed technical and business plans, and have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to NASA and the Venture Capital community at a live event. Winners of the final Entrepreneurs Challenge round receive additional prize money—in 2023 the total Entrepreneurs Challenge prize value is $1M.