DARPA Reefense Proposers Day

Webcast Overview

The Biological Technologies Office (BTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is hosting a Proposers Day for the potential proposer community in support of a planned Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the Reefense Program. The Proposers Day will be webcast on January 22, 2021 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM EST. Advance registration is required. Note, all times listed on this registration website are Eastern Standard Time.

The goals of the Proposers Day are to:

  1. Introduce the science and technology community (industry, academia, and government) to the Reefense program vision and goals;
  2. Explain the mechanics of DARPA programs in general and in relation to the specific objectives and milestones of the Reefense program; and,
  3. Facilitate interactions between investigators to encourage and promote teaming arrangements among organizations that have the necessary expertise, facilities, and capabilities to meet the objectives established by the Reefense program.

The Proposers Day will include brief overview presentations by government personnel, an information session to respond to participant questions, and private sidebar meetings between the DARPA team and potential proposers. A limited number of sidebar meetings will be available to participants and MUST be scheduled via the registration website.

Attendance at this event is not a requirement for submission of a proposal or selection for funding; however, it is anticipated that teaming efforts will be needed to successfully innovate and integrate the critical technologies necessary to meet the Reefense program goals. Information relayed during the Proposers Day will be made available on the BTO section of the DARPA Opportunities page: https://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/opportunities.

Reefense Program Overview

Reefense seeks to develop self-healing, hybrid biological and engineered reef-mimicking structures to mitigate the coastal flooding, erosion and storm damage that increasingly threaten civilian and DoD infrastructure and personnel.  Current DoD coastal protection systems generally fall into two categories - shorelines armored with concrete bulkheads, or free-standing monolithic and heterogeneous storm breaks (e.g., using “rip-rap,” an aggregation of stones and concrete chunks). Bulkheads reflect rather than dissipate wave energy, resulting in unintended damage from seabed scouring and over-wash flooding during high surf. Bulkheads also require expensive, persistent maintenance. Importantly, these structures are not designed to recruit or take advantage of natural reef building organisms.

In contrast to a solely engineered approach, the Reefense strategy combines (1) the durability and instantaneous protection afforded by biocompatible, engineered base structures with (2) a healthy reef ecosystem capable of promoting and sustaining reef building organisms, armed with (3) the incorporation of techniques to provide greater environmental resilience for those calcareous reef-building organisms. Under Reefense, custom wave-attenuating base structures will be designed and fabricated to promote calcareous reef organism (coral or oyster) settlement and growth, which will enable the system to self-heal and keep pace with sea level rise over time. Systems must be designed and put in place that will also attract non-reef building organisms necessary to help maintain a healthy, growing system. Finally, adaptive biology (other than synthetic biology) will enable improved coral and oyster resilience against disease and temperature stress, to ensure compatibility with a changing environment. Combined innovations in all three of these areas will be necessary to enable the development of novel, living structures that can attenuate rather than reflect wave energy while keeping pace with sea level rise.