US Government Will Pay $500,000 for A New Face Mask Design

The "Mask Innovation Challenge" is looking for a more comfortable and effective mask design compared to the current models.
Fabienne Lang
Different types of masksbohemama/iStock

Wearing a face mask has become the norm for most people worldwide. But even after over a year of incorporating them into your daily style, these face coverings are still not generally seen as something comfortable to wear. 

They can fog up glasses, cause skin problems, hinder communication, and aren't comfortable to wear for long periods of time. But as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, they're important as a means to slow down the spread of COVID-19, and will most likely remain in your daily attire for a while to come.

To keep things a little more exciting, designers and creators around the world created face masks that can be re-used to help plant growth, can project voices, or even give off a bacon scent.

However, the U.S. government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) believes this still isn't enough to promote face mask-wearing.

So it has launched the "Mask Innovation Challenge" with total cash prizes reaching up to $500,000 for anyone who can design and create a face mask people want to wear, and that protects them, and others from COVID-19. 

The Mask Innovation Challenge's details

Working alongside the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, an organization under the CDC), BARDA's challenge is currently broken down into two initial phases, with a potential third phase planned for down the track. 

Phase 1 focuses on the design and is split into two categories: Contestants can either redesign existing face masks, or they can invent new ones using new technologies and materials. Up to 10 winners will be selected from this Phase and can win up to $10,000 cash prize to help them build a prototype of their mask. 

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Phase 2 is the proof-of-concept stage where contestants respond with solutions of new mask designs to a scenario and have to create a prototype of their solution, which NIOSH will test to ensure how good they are. 

Up to five winners can win Phase 2, and split a total cash prize of $400,000 — with more details of this stage to be shared online later on. 

The contest opened for submissions on March 31 and closes on April 21. 

This challenge is certainly a good incentive to promote the creation of new face masks, and even though more and more people are being vaccinated against COVID-19, reports state that wearing face masks will most likely still be required. So may as well have a comfy, cool mask to wear while you're at it!