XPRIZE CALLS UPON THE NEXT GENERATION OF INNOVATORS TO HELP FIGHT COVID-19 WITH MILLION DOLLAR NEXT-GEN MASK CHALLENGE

Jul 15 2020

The Eight-Month Contest Will Invite Young Innovators Ages 15-24 to Rethink and Redesign Surgical-Grade Protective Masks, to Create an Effective and Accessible Solution that Overcomes Common Barriers for Use 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (July 13, 2020)XPRIZE, a nonprofit organization that uses global competitions to crowdsource solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges, is pleased to announce the launch of their Next-Gen Mask Challenge. The contest is sponsored by Marc Benioff and Jim Cramer, the host of Mad Money on CNBC. The eight-month challenge, which is open to young adults from around the world ages 15 to 24, will invite future innovators to shift cultural perspective around mask-wearing behavior by developing the next generation of surgical-grade consumer face masks. In the end, a grand prize winner plus two additional teams will be selected by a panel of judges and industry experts. The three teams will split a one-million-dollar prize purse and will be connected to rapid manufacturing opportunities in the US to accelerate the production of their reimagined facial masks.   

Recognizing that currently one-third of the US population doesn’t regularly wear a mask, despite evidence showing that when used properly they can significantly reduce transmission of some respiratory viruses, XPRIZE seeks to fight the pandemic through empowering and facilitating innovation that encourages positive mask wearing behavior. To ensure the competition is designed for maximum impact, XPRIZE surveyed individuals worldwide who indicated their top barriers to regular mask use, those included: fogging of glasses, get too hot, are uncomfortable, cause breathing difficulties, make conversations challenging, can’t exercise while wearing, cause pain or don’t fit properly, block facial expressions, can’t eat or drink, aren’t eco-friendly, are ugly or boring, and 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. “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.

“The COVID-19 crisis is one of the most critical challenges that the world has seen,” said Emily Church, XPRIZE’s executive director of equity and education. “As a global leader we believe that effectively fighting the pandemic will take collaboration and innovative thinking at an extraordinary scale. We know that wearing a mask greatly minimizes your risk, but for many, traditional options simply don’t fit into their lifestyle. 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.”

XPRIZE’s Next-Gen Mask Challenge will kick off today, competing teams will need to submit final design and supporting materials to XPRIZE by 06:59pm UTC on October 22, 2020.  Winners will be announced in February of 2021 and additional details can be found here.

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ABOUT XPRIZE

XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $10 Million Rainforest XPRIZE, the $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE and the $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling. For more information, visit xprize.org.