On March 31st, 2021 BARDA launched a competition to design tomorrow’s mask. The Mask Innovation Challenge, at its core, is about finding new mask designs that can be mass produced at a low cost and provide general protections against respiratory pathogens. One of the lessons learned from this pandemic is that barriers exist within the population when it comes to widespread adoption and consistent use of face masks. This challenge identifies the specific problems that the contestants should consider in their device designs:
- Currently available retail masks are often untested, with unknown protective capability
- Physical discomfort with prolonged use, particularly in hot and humid environments
- Perceived or actual breathing difficulties
- Irritant contact dermatitis with extended wear
- Inability to effectively communicate with others using facial expressions
- Speech intelligibility and difficulty with glasses wearing,
- Lack of understanding of the features of a mask
Potential contestants should read the rules of the challenge carefully as there are delineations between the two potential tracks for applications.
- Barrier Face Coverings: Designs in this track focus on improving upon already existing designs for cloth facemasks.
- Other Designs/Technologies: Designs in this track incorporate new technologies that have not yet been included in current mask designs.
This competition has two phases. Phase 1 could have up to ten (10) winners walking away with $10,000 each and Phase 2 will see five (5) winners splitting a prize pool of $400,000. If you do not get selected for Phase 1 do not fret as you may still be available for Phase 2. There is no expectation of a prototype or finished product for Phase 1. These submissions are not very long with an approximate 1500 word count limit across the nine discreet sections of the proposal.
If I can make one humble request, please make your masks available in an array of colors. The only attribute that I share with fictional Telenovela star, Rogelio de la Vega, is that I don’t pop in peach.
The deadline to submit is 5pm (Eastern Time) on April 21st, 2021.