You could win $500,000 from the US government for designing the next generation of face masks

You could win $500,000 from the US government for designing the next generation of face masks

April 6, 2021
  • The US government launched a Mask Innovation Challenge to create the next generation of masks.
  • The new designs must address common problems like foggy glasses and skin irritation.
  • Contestants must enter phase 1 by the April 21 deadline. 
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The US government is offering up to $500,000 for those who enter their designs into a next-generation face mask competition. 

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on Tuesday announced a competition for anyone wanting to create the next best facemask that  can continue to be worn after the COVID-19 pandemic to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

New designs should address “notable barriers” people have that are bothersome or keep them from wearing one, the agencies said. These issues include foggy glasses, irritated skin, unclear speech, ineffectiveness, trouble fitting, and lack of visible facial expressions. 

“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 agencies said.

Read more: A pivot to selling face masks saved small businesses. Here’s what they learned from a year of selling the world’s most in-demand product

The challenge comes in two phases: Phase one is the design phase in which contestants must submit their plans for a redesigned mask meeting the competition’s criteria by the April 21 deadline, and Phase 2 is the “proof of concept,” where contestants will be asked to submit their solutions to an unknown scenario.

The agencies said more details will be released on the second phase at a later date. Up to 10 winners in phase 1 to receive no more than $10,000 each, and it will select up to 5 winners to split a $400,000 pot. 

People in the US began wearing face masks more than a year ago to help slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Since then, many new face mask designs have been released, some more effective than others, though. 

Now, as the country braces for a post-pandemic world as millions of people receive a COVID-19 vaccine each day, questions loom about the future of face mask wearing. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said people will need to wear face masks through 2021, and the CVS CEO Karen Lynch said masks will likely be needed until at least 2022 “for the safety of the nation.” Meanwhile, many states have begun lifting their face mask requirements, worrying public health officials who say it’s not yet time. 

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