proposed timeline - subject to modification

NASA’s iTech cycle unfolds over the course of six months, with the end of one cycle finishing as the next cycle begins.  The cycle proceeds through several distinct phases:


Stages One and Two - Identify Best Potential Opportunities for Impact

NASA and its large contractors came together in July 2016 for a Showcase of Innovation Challenges to identify gaps in the current state of technology that need to be filled to enable the next generation of exploration to Mars and beyond. This workshop highlighted long-range technology challenges NASA faces that are not currently under development by the agency or have yet to be solved.

Videos from the Showcase of Innovation Challenges are linked below.

After the Showcase of Innovation Challenges, NASA's Mission Directorates selected the top areas of innovation challenges arising from that showcase.

The 2016 (Cycle 1) NASA iTech focus areas were:

Crew Health – Medical Systems & Operations

Specific Challenge: This innovation challenge seeks to complement or jump-start NASA’s current or planned investments in:

  • Exploration Lab Analyses Technologies (compact, low power, analytic devices to support healthcare in the field
  • Flexible Ultrasound Technologies/Modalities (non-traditional uses of ultrasound in medical imaging and treatment)
  • Food and Pharmaceutical Technologies (extended life formulations or packaging; in situ production
  • Assisted Medical Decision Support (compact exercise devices and/or wearable technologies with autonomous physiological and/or behavioral monitoring, advising, and motivating tools)
  • Augmented Reality Platforms (to virtual worlds for medical, physiological,   and/or physical training)

Radiation – Detection & Mitigation

Specific Challenge: This innovation challenge topic seeks to complement and support NASA’s current investments in radiation detection technologies by identify and developing precision radiation detectors. This challenge also includes a call for research results and pharmaceutical agents which support the control or mitigation of space radiation health risks.

Earth Sciences – Greenhouse Gas Measurements

Specific Challenge: This innovation challenge seeks to achieve very high resolution measurements of key greenhouse gases, which includes CO, CO2, CH4, NO2, O3, and others: measuring 3D tropospheric winds at unprecedented resolution.

Propulsion – Energy Storage Technologies

Specific Challenge: This innovation challenge topic seeks to complement NASA’s current investments in electrified propulsion by focusing on research in high specific-energy storage technologies to address the stringent weight requirements highlighted above for aircraft propulsion applications.


Specific Challenge: This innovation challenge topic seeks to explore new methods to increase the recovery of oxygen (O2) from the carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaled during crew respiration.

Stage Three - Gather Ideas Through Call For White Papers

On September 21, 2016 NASA iTech issued a call on for white papers seeking potential solutions to meet those top challenges. The deadline for submitting the five-page white paper outlining proposed technology solutions was October 17, 2016.


Stages Four and five - evaluate and Select top white papers

A panel of subject matter experts identified by the National Institute of Aerospace reviewed all submissions. This panel worked with NASA iTech staff to identify the top solutions from eligible papers submitted by the deadline. The top 25 submissions were announced on November 2, 2016.

Those top 25 ideas were further analyzed and evaluated by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist. On November 21, 2016, the top 10 finalists were announced and representatives from those top 10 technologies/innovations were invited to present their ideas at NASA’s iTech Forum, scheduled December 5-8, 2016 at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The National Institute of Aerospace worked with the semifinalists in preparation for the presentation at the iTech Forum, in Washington D.C. Travel and accommodations to Washington D.C. are provided by NASA iTech for these top ten finalists.


Stage Six - NASA iTech Forum

The NASA iTech Forum is an opportunity for connecting with NASA representatives and the agency's largest contractors as the Top 10 finalists convene at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Held December 5-8, 2016, the forum was a collaborative effort where NASA iTech finalists and Council members worked together to identify opportunities to help the finalists take the selected innovations to scale.  The NASA iTech Council will bring into play expertise, network and resources to help execute this.

Finalists spent the first days of the forum networking and working with mentors to further sharpen and refine their ideas. The forum culminated as each of the 10 finalists (innovators/companies) shared their innovation with experts from NASA, academia and the space industry.

On Thursday, December 8, 2016 the NASA iTech Forum concluded as the top three innovations were announced during the event awards ceremony.

The top three innovations were (in alphabetical order):

Aequor, Inc.

Oceanside, California

Entry Title: Novel Antibiofilm Molecules

Challenge Focus Area: Life Support Systems - Increase Oxygen Recovery

InnaMed, Inc.

Anaheim, California

Entry Title: Microfluidic Blood Testing Device Utilizing Electrochemical Sensing

Challenge Focus Area: Life Support Systems - Increase Oxygen Recovery

Liberty Biosecurity

Arlington, Virginia

Entry Title: Molecules to Safely Protect Against DNA Damage Caused by Ionizing Radiation in Space.          

Challenge Focus Area: Radiation - Protection and Mitigation




Stage Seven - Development Kickoff

The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) is working with the top winners of the 2016 NASA iTech Forum to develop a customized year-one implementation plan and a customized five-year (long-term) plan to further develop the innovation toward real-world use.