Health

HHS launches mask design improvement contest


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a competition to develop “the next generation of masks” with the winning submission receiving a $500,000 cash prize.

The competition — “Mask Innovation Challenge: Building Tomorrow’s Mask” — is a partnership between HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

In the announcement, HHS notes that many health authorities around the world are encouraging people to wear masks to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases, but masks often present some challenges such as: “contact dermatitis with prolonged wear, physical discomfort, fogging of eyeglasses, and difficulty communicating.”

“The Mask Innovation Challenge seeks to develop innovative and effective designs for mass-producible, low-cost-per-use devices to be worn by the general public in order to provide protection from respiratory disease pathogens,” the HHS said in the competition’s description.

The submitted designs will be judged by four criteria: technological feasibility; innovation; whether or not they address existing mask barriers; and the overall design.

The competition will be divided into two different phases and take place over six months.

Phase 1 will involve participants submitting their designs to BARDA. The time to send in submissions for mask design began on Wednesday March 31 and will end on April 21, 2021 at 5 p.m. ET. Submissions can be entered here. In Phase 1, up to 10 winners will receive up to $10,000 each to create a prototype of their masks.

In Phase 2 of the competition, challenge participants will be asked to submit their proof-of-concept in response to a scenario. A prize of $400,000 will be divided among five winners of Phase 2. More information on Phase 2 will be shared in the future as the competition progresses.

More details of the competition can be found here.

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