The XPrize global invention competition has announced a contest to develop a reimagined surgical face mask to protect against COVID-19.
The 8-month contest is open to innovators age15 to 24 to come up with a face mask that will overcome common barriers to use. The three winning teams will split a $1 million prize purse and will be connected to rapid manufacturing opportunities in the U.S. to accelerate the production of their reimagined facial masks.
With one-third of the U.S. population not wearing masks regularly to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, XPrize organizers decided to find out why. They surveyed individuals worldwide who indicated their top barriers to regular mask use included that masks:
- Fog glasses.
- Get too hot.
- Are uncomfortable.
- Cause breathing difficulties.
- Make conversations challenging.
- Cannot be worn during exercise.
- Cause pain or don’t fit properly.
- Block facial expressions.
- Prevent eating and drinking.
- Aren’t eco-friendly.
- Are ugly or boring.
- Are difficult to acquire.
“Currently, we are experiencing a crisis within a crisis,” said Peter Diamandis, the founder and executive chairman of the XPrize Foundation, in a news release. “Studies show that masks are effective in slowing and preventing the spread of COVID-19, yet even as cases surge a large number of individuals are still not adopting the preventive measure. We understand that masks can be ill-fitting, uncomfortable, unfashionable, and that the most effective masks are often unavailable or expensive for everyday people. We need an alternative, that’s why XPRIZE is turning to the world’s young innovators to help reinvent the face mask and create an accessible alternative that will help protect against the spread of COVID-19.”
All masks must allow for scaled manufacturing and will be evaluated by the XPrize team, industry experts and a panel of cultural ambassadors, on the following three key criteria:
- Must achieve filtration efficacy on par with a surgical mask.
- Must address at least five of the 10 top reasons people do not wear masks, as determined by the Next-Gen Mask Challenge survey.
- “X-Factor of style” that will promote positive mask-wearing behavior.
“We know that wearing a mask greatly minimizes your risk, but for many, traditional options simply don’t fit into their lifestyle,” said Emily Church, XPrize’s executive director of equity and education. “This fact, coupled with the estimation that for every confirmed case there are countless asymptomatic carriers who might be unaware, made it critical to launch this challenge. We know that when empowered and supported, young adults will rise to the challenge and are excited to see these innovations come to life.”
Deadline for sending final design and supporting materials to XPrize is 6:59 p.m. UTC on October 22, 2020. Winners will be announced in February of 2021. You can find more details here.