Biden Administration Announces $500,000 Mask Innovation Challenge

The challenge is going down in two phases, the first of which launched this week. Inventors are asked to contribute their own designs for everyday masks.


Image via Getty/JIM WATSON/AFP


Though the behavior of some may suggest otherwise, masks are indeed still strongly advised as an easily wearable accessory amid the still-in-progress pandemic era. 

To bolster involvement in the ongoing process of improving mask design and comfortability, the Biden administration has announced a $500,000 contest in which inventors are asked to contribute their own designs for effective everyday masks.

“We know that properly and consistently worn face masks help reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory infections, but many people are reluctant to wear them for a variety of reasons,” Nikki Bratcher-Bowman, HHS acting Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, said in a press release on Wednesday. “With this mask challenge, we want to get people across the country involved in developing new masks that are both effective and comfortable. This will help us control COVID-19 and be better prepared for future public health emergencies.”

The design challenge marks a partnership between the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the latter of which is a part of the CDC. The first phase of the challenge launched Wednesday and sees the Biden administration asking for new designs that meet specific criteria, with each participant required to explain how their design pitch meets the criteria and “solves the hurdles to mask wearing.” As many as 10 winning ideas will be chosen to split a haul of $100,000. Entries for this phase of the challenge will be accepted until 5 p.m. ET on April 21.

The second phase, meanwhile, will see contest participants pitching prototypes that utilize research on filtration efficiency of materials. These prototypes must meet criteria on filtration, fit, comfort, and large-scale manufacturing. As many as five chosen winners will split $400,000, as well as be given access to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority resources in finishing prototypes. 

For more on the 2021 Mask Innovation Challenge, including a full rundown of rules, peep this.

In March, the Biden administration announced an investment of $10 billion that will go toward further expanding nationwide access to COVID-19 vaccine options. By May 1, all regions in the U.S. have been instructed to make vaccine appointments open to all eligible participants, regardless of phase groupings.

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