DASA Competition: Understanding Whole Body Vibration
Closing Date: 18/01/2023
A Defence and Security Accelerator competition to seek ideas that enhance understanding of whole body vibration, including its links to injury and effects on performance.
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is part of the UK Government’s Ministry of Defence. The Accelerator helps public and private innovators develop their ideas into exploitable products and services for defence and security customers, and experiments with novel methodology and innovative approaches to facilitate accelerating delivery of the best solutions.
DASA has launched the Understanding Whole Body Vibration competition with funding from the Defence Medical Services and Defence Science and Technology. The competition will support innovative technologies and ideas that may be used as the basis for further research into whole body vibrations (WBV), including its links to injury and effects on performance.
The proposals submitted to this competition will help to address the following outstanding WBV questions, such as:
- What is the scale of injury related to WBV and how does this affect deployability?
- How does vibration cause musculoskeletal injury?
- What happens when vibration and shock are combined with other environmental factors such as heat, cold, noise, altitude, etc?
- How do we measure WBV exposure at the individual level?
- What are the short-term effects of exposure to WBV and how do they differ for males and females?
At least one funded proposal will be a multidisciplinary programme seeking to address all or the majority of the questions raised. Any remaining funding will be directed towards applications focusing on delivery against specific questions, eg development of technology to reproduce vibration and shock signatures.
This competition has the following three challenge areas.
Challenge 1: Define the size and nature of the problem
This challenge area seeks definitive data on the prevalence and severity of WBV in service personnel working with armoured vehicles or boats. Ideas that may help solve this challenge area may include:
- Machine learning algorithms to mine clinical databases that establish patterns of injury in at risk groups.
- Mechanistic models that increase understanding of how WBV causes musculoskeletal injury in males and females and how to predict and prevent future injury.
Challenge 2: Quantify exposure to WBV
This challenge area seeks to determine a dose-response relationship between WBV and injury. Ideas that might help solve this challenge area may include:
- Platform agnostic wearable sensors to evaluate personal exposure to WBV and shock.
- Platform instrumentation that can capture and transmit vibration and shock signatures for use in research and development.
Challenge 3: Establish the short-term effects of WBV on performance of duties
This challenge area seeks evidence for the effects of WBV exposure on human performance, such as visual tracking ability, cognitive skills, and physical performance. Ideas that might help solve this challenge area may include:
- Development of military-specific, validated outcome measures that are sensitive to the influence of WBV exposure.
- Technology that can reproduce experimental conditions of vibration and shock signatures experienced by individuals across different platforms.
The competition seeks the following innovations:
- Technology to quantify vibration within vehicles during use, and, more importantly, upon the individual exposed to the vibration. This will encompass personal wearable technology and platform instrumentation and will allow the setting of boundary conditions for personalised operational exposure.
- Development of technology able to reproduce under experimental conditions the vibration and shock signatures experienced by individuals across different platforms (vehicle, ship, boat, aircraft; and/or machinery).
- In vivo, in vitro or in silico mechanistic models that increase understanding of how WBV and shock cause musculoskeletal injury and are able to predict and prevent future injury.
- Development and validation of reliable outcome measures to assess the short-term operational effects (ie physical and cognitive ability upon disembarkation).
Innovation within proposals can commence at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) between 1-5, but should aim to progress to TRL 6 – technology model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment – by the end of the contract.
A subsequent programme – ‘protecting against whole body vibration’ – may be launched towards the end of this competition, making use of the lessons learned. This will be open to all applicants, not just successful suppliers from this phase of the work. It would be beneficial for proposals submitted into this competition to consider how outcomes might inform the future ‘protect programme’ deliverables, including:
- The injury risk criteria that should be used to evaluate future vehicle design and protective equipment.
- The development of effective WBV mitigation technologies to reduce exposure and injury.