In July, XPRIZE challenged young designers around the world to devise the next generation of surgical-grade consumer face masks. Sponsored by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and CNBC Host Jim Cramer, the XPRIZE Next-Gen Mask Challenge set out to “reimagine protective face masks used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by making them more comfortable, functional, accessible, and even stylish,” according to the nonprofit’s Web site.
Twenty-five teams representing 12 countries have now advanced through qualifying round one on to round two judging. After that round, 10 semi-finalists will then face in-lab testing and cultural ambassador judging, narrowing the group of competitors to 5 finalists. In November, a grand prize winner along with two additional teams will split a $1 million prize award, XPRIZE reported. All competitors range in age from 15 to 24 years old, and the winning teams are listed here.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis,” said Peter H. Diamandis, XPRIZE founder and executive chairman, in a news release. “We know that wearing a mask is an effective way to curtail the spread of COVID-19, yet many find masks undesirable for many reasons from comfort to fashion. The mission of the Next-Gen Mask Challenge is to resolve this situation, to drive innovation that results in a new generation of masks that are comfortable, safe, fashionable and ultimately desirable, encouraging mask wearing behavior. Thus far, we’ve been so impressed with what our competing teams have developed. Our next step is to connect these teams with our ecosystem manufacturing partners who will provide mentorship, resources and guidance.”
XPRIZE’s industry partners will be on hand to assist the competitors with prototypes, prepare them for testing and, ultimately, support the production and adoption of the winning team’s mask, according to the release. The competition partners are described as follows:
- 3M – A manufacturing partner that is prototyping, testing, judging, and potentially manufacturing the winning designs.
- Autodesk Inc. – Providing free access to its professional design software to participating student teams and design training resources to all competitors. While eligible students will have access to Autodesk’s full design suite, specialized learning assets and webinars for Fusion 360 will be made available to participants.
- Bryan Cave – Offering pro-bono legal counsel on intellectual property rights for competitors.
- Honeywell – A manufacturing partner that is prototyping, testing, judging, and potentially manufacturing the winning designs.
- Lydall Performance Materials – Donating fine fiber meltblown filtration media, the same material used in N95 respirators and surgical masks, to competing teams, as well as resources to educate competitors on the importance of filters in masks.
- NAM – Supporting recruitment, team mentorship, prototyping support, and other services to democratize the competition and support teams.
- Under Armour – Providing team mentorship on fashion, design, and the use of performance materials.
Said Denise Rutherford, 3M’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, in the release: “XPRIZE and 3M have a shared goal of inspiring the next generation of scientists and innovators who are challenging the status quo and daring to create a better world. At 3M, we believe that science, creativity and collaboration are critical in helping to solve the world’s biggest challenges. We are excited to participate in this important challenge, and to mentor XPRIZE contestants in order to accelerate their dreams into reality.”
In 2017 XPRIZE challenged innovators to develop a consumer-focused, mobile integrated diagnostic device inspired by the medical Tricorder of Star Trek fame, MD+DI reported. Final Frontier Medical Devices (now known as Basil Leaf Technologies) won the $2.6 million XPRIZE competition and financial assistance to bring its device to market. A second-place prize of $1 million was granted to Dynamical Biomarkers Group.