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Frequently Asked Questions

The Challenge is open to anyone age 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Federal employees and employees of the Challenge management entities are prohibited from participating.

Submissions must be made in English. All Challenge-related communication will be in English.

Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation.  See the Sanctions Programs and Country Information | U.S. Department of the Treasury

Please note that this eligibility differs from the eligibility under the America COMPETES Act.

Please see Challenge terms and conditions for additional eligibility requirements.

This Challenge uses a down-select approach, so only winners of Phase 1 are eligible to participate in Phase 2, and only winners of Phase 2 are eligible to participate in Phase 3.

Both are acceptable. Please see the eligibility requirements listed on the website covering both individuals and organizations. Please note that there are tax implications for citizens who receive prize money.

Yes, the competition is open to individuals or existing companies with existing solutions as well.

If you are a current grantee and have received Government funding for similar projects, you or your employer may not be eligible for award under this Challenge. Please contact us if you need help determining your eligibility.

To sign up for updates or to learn about current progress, please visit the Challenge signup page.

No, but we encourage you to register in advance so that you get up-to-date information about the Challenge. Just click the “Contestant Portal” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration.

It is not a requirement but rather a benefit for participants and an opportunity to ask questions. The closed-caption recording will be posted on the Challenge website for the benefit of contestants who were unable to attend.

No. Individuals and teams should only submit one application.

No, however, the submission criteria detail the components and page limits for the submission.

Participants can submit the Concept Paper for consideration through the Challenge website. Participants will be taken to the contestant portal where they will create an account, complete the submission form, upload their document, and submit their solution.

When entering your submission, please follow the Submission Requirements.

There are no restrictions on how prize funds can be used. You and your organization may be required to report the funds received for tax purposes, but NIOSH imposes no constraints on how prize monies can be used.

The participant grants to the Federal Government an irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide license to reproduce, publish, post, link to, share, and display publicly the submission on the web or elsewhere, and a non-exclusive, non-transferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice, or have practiced for or on its behalf, the solution throughout the world. Each solver will retain all other intellectual property rights in their submissions, as applicable. To participate in the Challenge, each solver must warrant that there are no legal obstacles to providing the above-referenced nonexclusive licenses of the solver’s rights to the Federal Government.

To receive a prize for their submission, solvers must agree to grant the Federal Government a non-exclusive license to the inventive concept or inventions and patents in all intellectual property demonstrated by the winning/award submissions.

Full intellectual property rights also remain with the licensor. Each participant retains title and full ownership in and to their submission. The judges are federal employees who are bound by confidentiality protections and the submissions are uploaded through a secure system. No proprietary information will be released by the Challenge managers, even related to winner announcements.

Because innovation is encouraged, testing and evaluation may need to adapt depending on the solution that is submitted. The winning white papers submitted in Phase 1 will inform NIOSH about how to best evaluate and test solutions in Phase 3. The goal will be to replicate, or replicate as closely as possible, what the solver asserts in their Phase 2 submission during Phase 3 testing and evaluation. In addition, during Phase 3 NIOSH may use standard and/or unconventional test procedures and methods to evaluate solutions.

Solutions will be demonstrated using a NIOSH approved Filtering Face Respirator (FFR). These disposable half facepiece respirators filter out particulates such as dust, mists, and fumes. They do not provide protection against gases and vapors.

It is not a requirement of this challenge to meet specified criteria listed in respiratory protection standards and regulations. However, solvers should be aware of applicable test methods and procedures contained in these standards since they could be used during Phase 3 evaluation.

Cost will be considered as a component of the evaluation criteria in Phase 1 and Phase 2. However, there is no set dollar cap specified for the final market price of the solution.

During the COVID-19 pandemic certain types of personal protective equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness, like FFRs, were in high demand. Furthermore, beginning in 2021, FFRs were distributed to the public to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This Challenge is focused on providing end users immediate evaluation and feedback on the fit of their FFR. Solutions can address fit of other respirator types, but other respirator types will not be part of the evaluation for this challenge.

This is up to the solver to decide. The challenge is seeking innovative approaches. It is not a requirement to sample “FFR deadspace” as part a solution for this challenge. Solutions must be demonstrated on NIOSH approved FFRs, and modification may be required to demonstrate new and innovative technologies.

The Challenge is focused on novel technologies and innovative approaches that deliver immediate evaluation and feedback to end users about the fit of FFRs during use. Incorporation of solutions into PPE stockpile strategies is not a requirement of the challenge but could be taken into consideration as part solution evaluations.

Yes, solvers can resubmit their paper up to the deadline.

It depends on how the solution is incorporated. If a solution modifies the NIOSH approved FFR it could present a challenge to the solver in terms of bringing the solution to market later. However, it would not preclude the solver from submitting such an innovation to this Challenge. All innovative approaches and novel technologies are welcome.

The solution could require the end user to check fit, but it is not a requirement.

Solutions applicable to a broad number of NIOSH approved FFRs will be taken into consideration during evaluation. However, it is not a requirement. Solutions only need to be demonstrated on one type of NIOSH approved respirator during Phase 3 evaluation.

Respirators used in occupational settings must be in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Solutions should consider these regulations, but they are not a requirement of the challenge.

A fit factor of 100 is the OSHA requirement for passing a fit test using a quantitative particle counting method. Solvers may also offer solutions such as qualitative fit test innovations.

Judges will evaluate your submission based on the criteria identified on the website. Technical writing is not a requirement, and the aim is to make Phase 1 open to a wide range of innovators. It will be important to present your solution in a clear manner and to be responsive to the evaluation criteria.

The judges are Federal scientists and experts familiar with FFR fit testing.

NIOSH has engaged with several Federal partners in this Challenge. OSHA representatives could be part of the evaluation team.

Implemented by       

Implemented by Capital Consulting Corporation