DARPA Disruptioneering mini-programs aims to accelerate breakthroughs

DARPA announced the first programs under its new Disruptioneering effort, which pushes for faster identification and exploration of bold and risky ideas with the goal of accelerating scientific discovery.

Under the new concept, DSO program managers intend to develop small programs of $5 million or less in total funding on an expedited timeline, with an initial target of less than 90 days for progressing from idea inception to contract award and a downstream target of fewer than 75 days.

Fundamental Design (FUN DESIGN) and Imaging Through Almost Anything, Anywhere (ITA3) are the first programs.

FUN DESIGN aims to investigate new fundamental computational and mathematical building blocks for representing novel and optimized designs of mechanical systems.

ITA3 seeks to determine the 3-D resolution/range trade space based on the use of all-pervasive low-frequency, electromagnetic waves, combined with simple computational methods to consider the challenge of imaging through metal containers, walls, ground, fog, water, and other complex media.

“These Disruptioneering ‘mini-programs’ are designed to quickly explore some of the most radical and potentially highest-payoff ideas to see if there’s something there to be pursued further. The goal is to speed up the tempo of innovation and ultimately to reduce risk by making smaller targeted investments that could lead to quantum leaps forward in technology for national defense.”

Disruptioneering programs will follow a standard format: a three- to six-month first phase to initially assess a novel idea, potentially followed by a second phase of 12 to 15 months, if results from the first phase warrant further exploration and investment.

“For this new Disruptioneering effort, the time from program announcement to when research proposals are due has been shortened to as few as 30 days, and the technical section of proposals can’t exceed eight pages,” said Kristen Fuller, DSO’s assistant director for program management. “To make the process as straightforward as possible, we’ve streamlined contracting and internal processes to meet an aggressive schedule. We’ve also developed standardized Disruptioneering templates for cost analysis and other requirements and included them as an appendix in DSO’s Office-Wide BAA.”

DSO programs can often take six months or longer after receipt of proposal for contracts to be signed and for work to begin. “Since DARPA program managers only have three to five years to pursue their potentially game-changing ideas, we want to do everything possible to cut the time from idea inception to when research can start,” Fuller said. “Disruptioneering programs should serve as a great additional framework to enable program managers to make a quick initial investment to investigate novel scientific ideas. If the idea turns out to be promising, it could become the basis for a larger program.”