A new request for proposal on behalf of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) asks “to acquire services to design, develop, test and demonstrate a Connected Care Medical Module.”
The initial eight-month contract will see up to five bidders – or prime contractors, if they wish to integrate with subcontractors – win about $2 million each, as they strive to create a version of this health module by early 2023. Bid submissions are due Oct. 31.
CSA expects to fund these bidders every year “to maintain competitiveness and maximize innovation throughout the rapid prototyping scheme,” according to the module’s documentation. Although the module will be used for the first five years on Earth, there is a hope of making a space version of this application in the next decade or so following iterative versions for terrestrial purposes.
The module will also be discussed during the CSA’s 2022 Health Beyond Summit, which will be held virtually for three days starting on Nov. 29. A senior CSA official emphasized to SpaceQ that the module was created following stakeholder discussions, examination of the Advisory Council report, and integration with working groups among the agency’s international partners.
All of these talks produced an emergent theme about preparing not only for lunar exploration – a big theme of the community right now – but how Canada can best use its expertise for the moon, for Mars and for applications on Earth, CSA’s Annie Martin said. (Martin is the Health Beyond portfolio manager at the CSA.)
“We were thinking how can we become that leader on the lunar surface,” Martin said. “When we think of medical technologies, we would need a complex set of technologies to enable self-reliance of the crews who, one day, will be spending more time on the lunar surface to get ready for Mars. That’s where the real challenge of healthcare delivery start.”
The module is meant to evolve as new technologies come in, which is why Martin emphasized it will be a 10- to 15-year effort, that it will be flexible and at the forefront of innovation, and will seek to create a framework in which different technologies may interact with each other.
Martin added that the module is also meant to provide an incentive to stakeholders who want to develop excellent remote care on Earth, but until now did not have the funding support to do so.
“We’re saying we need an integrated system that will be easy to use, intuitive, and that will allow and enable artificial intelligence to provide decision support,” she said. “We have that need for space and we also realize that the challenges for remote and isolated communities – in talking with the relevant stakeholders – that that was there something useful [to offer.]”
To be as flexible as possible to current and future needs, the CSA has sought to let each applicant define what they plan to do, rather than to impose requirements, Martin said. Rather, the CSA is striking a vision of an integrated module and asking for each bidder to submit their own adaptation, which will of course evolve in the coming years.
The CSA also seeks to attract technology applicants with the promise of rapid progress. “We’re hoping to have that type of funding on an annual or almost annual basis, and we’re going into a rapid prototyping phase to innovate. [We ask] show us what you got, and let’s keep moving.”
At best, CSA says the module may induce Canadian companies to seek their own suppliers to create novel solutions that are unimaginable at this time, but that ultimately, would be deployed to remote communities at a cost-effective scale to serve those populations.
“We want to work with all the different players involved so that we invest in something that will meaningfully be adopted in the future,” Martin added of the RFP.