The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the $500,000 “Mask Innovation Challenge” to find new and effective masks people will find more comfortable to wear.
HHS is hosting the contest in collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the agency responsible for leading the charge on the production and purchase of vaccines.
Up to 10 winners will be chosen in the first phase of the challenge and will split a $100,000 prize, with each person taking home up to $10,000.
The masks will be judged by their filtration efficiency, inhalation airflow resistance, fit and other test methods depending on the design.
No mask designs are permitted to use sprays or drugs that can be inhaled or absorbed in the skin, nose or mouth, according to HHS. You may not accessorize or modify NIOSH-approved respirators or FDA-approved surgical masks with anything like filters or additional head straps or ear loops.
During the second phase of the contest, participants can submit prototypes “that leverage research on the filtration efficiency of materials and meet the criteria including filtration, fit, comfort, and how easily the design can be manufactured on a large scale,” the HHS release said.
The prototypes will be tested to see if they meet filtration and airflow resistance criteria. And five winners will be chosen to split a $400,000 prize.