Got an idea to improve masks? Biden administration holds $500K contest

Joe BIden
President Joe Biden dons his mask. His administration is seeking participants in its “Mask Innovation Challenge.’’ Participants have until 5 p.m. April 21 to submit entries for the contest.


President Joe Biden’s administration is looking for ways to improve face masks — and will give out $500,000 in prizes to help do it.

The “Mask Innovation Challenge” invites Americans to submit ideas to make masks more comfortable to wear and to eliminate “barriers to use,” such as discomfort, contact dermatitis from “extended wear,” trouble communicating, “speech intelligibility,” foggy glasses, difficulty finding a mask that fits and “lack of understanding of the device’s features,” according to the contest’s description.

Participants have until 5 p.m. April 21 to submit entries for the contest, which is being hosted by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority office in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“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 description says. “Furthermore, users of these devices should be able to put them on and wear them without extensive fitting procedures or complicated user instructions.”

The CDC and other health agencies have urged Americans to continue wearing face masks and taking other protective measures against the coronavirus as vaccines are rolled out.


The contest is divided into at least two phases and last at least six months.

In Phase 1, participants enter their ideas for a “redesigned mask.”

“Up to 40 regional winners (within up to four regions) will be selected to … present their design to a panel of federal and non-federal experts,” the description says.

Ten people will then be selected to receive $10,000 each to create prototypes, which won’t be tested during the phase but which “may be eligible for consideration in future phases.”

In Phase 2, participants will submit “solutions in response to a scenario.” Participants don’t have to enter in Phase 1 to participate in Phase 2. But Phase 1 winners will be “eligible to receive additional points for consideration in the final judging process for Phase 2.”

“Finalists will be invited to submit prototypes for proof-of-concept testing by NIOSH laboratories and other partner laboratories. More details on Phase 2 will be provided by an update to this announcement in the future,” the contest’s description says.

Five winners will then split a $400,000 prize.

Judging will be based on “technological feasibility,” innovation, how well the submission addresses barriers and overall design.


Entries can be submitted here:

Submissions must include a cover page, a proposed design of up to three pages and a schematic of up to three pages. Participants must use the provided template.

“Up to the first 250 submissions will be considered, with BARDA reserving the right to review additional submissions at its own discretion,” the contest description says.



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