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Virginia Cybersecurity Challenge

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Virginia Cybersecurity Challenge logo

Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) aims to create a commonwealth-wide ecosystem of innovation excellence at the intersection of cybersecurity, autonomous systems, and data. CCI’s mission includes research, innovation, and workforce development. At times, CCI will work with partner organizations to fulfill this goal.

CCI, in partnership with US Ignite, is hosting the Virginia Cybersecurity Challenge to accelerate the Commonwealth’s development of talent and products that enhance cybersecurity. Virginia has emerged as a national leader in cybersecurity, boasting the second-highest concentration of technology workers in the nation. The Commonwealth considers it vital that Virginia researchers and students take advantage of opportunities to explore cybersecurity via programs such as this Challenge

The Challenge will seek submissions from researchers and faculty members at public CCI member universities to develop a cybersecurity prototype that leverages unique elements of emerging 5G technologies to provide secure operations or communications in ways not possible on previous generation networks. This prototype will ultimately develop into a commercializable product solution. Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to participate actively on researcher-led teams.

Secure 5G networks will become the backbone to enable IoT, transportation, automated infrastructure, and other autonomous systems of the future. The security of these networks and devices will touch nearly every aspect of people’s lives and help drive digital transformation and jobs.

This is a gated, four-phase Challenge beginning May 5, 2021. This call invites researchers to submit a Phase I proposal, with finalists from each phase being awarded funds and an invitation to participate in the next phase.

Questions? Please contact us at with any questions.


Participants will:

  • Submit an initial proposal in the format described below, responding to the Challenge pitch and outlining the proposed project, the potential for commercial success, success metrics, target audience, budget and identified commitment for the prototyping phase of the Challenge, as well as team biographies.
  • This proposal will respond to the following pitch:
    A cybersecurity prototype and relevant resources that leverage unique elements of emerging 5G technologies to provide secure operations or communications in ways not possible on previous generation networks.

Over the course of 6 months, invited participants will:

  • Develop a proof-of-concept prototype based on the proposal submitted during Phase I.
  • Demonstrate a functioning prototype for evaluation by a panel of expert judges.
  • Submit a brief proposal for product development in phase III, including a budget and identified commitment.

Over the course of 6 months, invited participants will:

  • Develop operational and scalable products based on the prototypes submitted during Phase II.
  • Demonstrate a functional application before a panel of judges for evaluation.
  • Submit a brief proposal for commercialization or adoption of the technology or application by industry

Over the course of 3 months, invited participants will fully engage with commercialization activities led by US Ignite and partners.

US Ignite Challenge logo.


Researchers and faculty members at public institutions of higher education in CCI who are deemed eligible by their home institution to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) on an external grant are eligible to apply.

Applications from under-represented groups are particularly welcome, as are applications from researchers who have not previously engaged with CCI.

Students at eligible CCI institutions are encouraged to reach out to researchers who are eligible to serve as a PI to participate on a project. Similarly, Virginia-based researchers are encouraged to recruit interested students to join researcher-led teams and continue on to the commercialization phase.


Following Phase I, Challenge judges will invite up to fifteen (15) teams to move on to Phase II, awarding each finalist up to $10,000.

Following Phase II, Challenge judges will invite up to eight (8) teams to move on to Phase III, awarding each finalist up to $20,000.

Following Phase III, Challenge judges will invite up to three (3) teams to move on to Phase IV, which will support teams in developing commercialization strategies. and efforts.

Please note: this Challenge is a gated competition. Only teams selected at the end of each phase will be invited to participate in the next phase.

Successful applicants are expected to participate fully in the activities of CCI, including providing materials needed for reports, participation in CCI meetings, and responding to data collection requests by CCI. All publications and presentations resulting from the grant should acknowledge support from the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). Grant award letters will supply an example of this acknowledgement.

Restrictions. According to the terms under which CCI is funded, the following costs are not allowable:

  • Indirect costs.
  • Costs of developing and delivering undergraduate capstone programs, except as part of the larger effort to align cyber and CPSS-focused undergraduate program content with industry needs.
  • A portion of salaries and benefits of faculty for time spent teaching undergraduates, including teaching cyber-related courses.
  • Scholarships for costs of attendance at institutions of higher education.

Identified Commitment

Because this is a CCI Node-funded program, the awardee must provide a 1:1 identified commitment to this grant. While indirect costs (IDC) are NOT eligible costs in the proposals submitted in response to this RFP, unrecovered IDC can be used to partially fulfill this requirement. No funds from other CCI-funded projects can be used as identified commitment.

Proposals and budgets should go through the appropriate approval process at the PI’s institution. For instance, many universities require researchers to include a proposal and budget which have been approved in the standard OSP pre-award procedure.

Proposal Format

Proposals must use 1-inch margins, 11-point font or larger (Arial or Helvetica), and single line spacing. The following outline is to be followed for Phase I:

  1. Title page (up to 1 page), including:
    1. Title of the proposed project
    2. PI Name
    3. PI affiliation
    4. PI contact information
  2. Proposed project (up to 2 pages), including:
    1. A clear statement of the proposed cybersecurity prototype and approach.
    2. Discussion of the technical requirements and engineering/scientific justification.
    3. Description of the potential for the prototype (and ultimately product) to deliver substantive innovation within 5G cybersecurity.
    4. Discussion of market potential likely to open up avenues for research and/or workforce development.
  3. Proposed commercialization or industry adoption strategy (up to 1 page).
  4. Budget and budget justification (up to 1 page).
    1. The budget must contain both the requested amount and the identified commitment. The latter should be in the form of a table according to the following format: 
    2. Download worksheet PDF.
  5. Biography (up to 2 pages). Use NSF format.
Event Date
Call for Proposals Released May 5, 2021
Question Period Ends May 14, 2021
Proposers Workshop May 21, 2021
Phase I Proposal Submissions Due  July 16, 2021
Phase I Award Notification/Phase II Start August 2, 2021
First round of award funding disbursed.
Phase II Prototype Submissions Due January 21, 2022
Phase II Award Notification/Phase III Start February 4, 2022
Second round of award funding disbursed
Phase III Product Submissions Due August 1, 2022
Phase III Recognition and Public Review August 22, 2022
Phase IV Commercialization Activities Commence September 12, 2022
  • Phase I: May 5, 2021 ー July 16, 2021
  • Phase II: Aug 2, 2021 ー Jan 21, 2022
  • Phase III: Feb 4, 2022 ー Aug 1, 2022
  • Phase IV: Sep 12, 2022 ー Dec 16, 2022

The Phase I proposal must be submitted via email to no later than the close of business (5:00 p.m. EDT) on Friday, July 16, 2021.

Please indicate “CCI Cybersecurity Challenge_PI Last Name” in the subject line.

All proposals must be submitted as a single PDF document.

A committee including representatives from CCI, outside technical experts, and US Ignite will review the proposals and make award recommendations. Evaluation criteria will include demonstrated expertise in at least one of the following areas:

  • Understanding of cybersecurity requirements within 5G technologies; network architecture; and identity management.
  • Potential for the prototype (and ultimately product) to deliver substantive innovation within 5G cybersecurity.
  • Feasible commercialization strategy and market potential (offering potential for job creation within the Commonwealth)
  • Clear performance and evaluation metrics proposed for the project.
  • Sufficient budget and matching resources to develop prototype
  • Track record of the PI/team involved and likelihood of achieving the stated goals.

I’m a recent graduate of a college or university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Can I serve as a PI?
Only faculty or researchers are eligible to apply for grant funding as a PI at a public CCI member institution may apply to this Challenge. Students are encouraged to reach out to a PI to participate on a project.

Do I need a team to apply?
The PI may lead a team of any size for this competition. The PI will serve as a team lead and all competition correspondence. All awarded funds will be disbursed to the PI.

Is there a registration fee?
There is no registration fee to apply.

What is required for each submission?
Each phase requires different materials for submission, but all submissions must include a budget and justification. Budget information should only be 1-2 pages of material.

Specific questions concerning this call and the requirements set forth herein should be directed in writing to the email address: