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Implemented by Capital Consulting Corporation

Phase 2 is now closed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Phase 3 is not about further modifying Phase 2 prototypes.  Rather, winners will be invited to submit their Phase 2 prototype devices, and all required components, to a defined NIOSH facility. NIOSH will then independently test the solution’s performance. Three winners will be awarded prizes ($75K for first place; $50K for second place; and $25K for third place).

NIOSH test approaches and techniques will be tailored to the submitted solution. Capital Consulting  will arrange for 15-minute sessions with NIOSH and Phase 2 winners to discuss shipping and testing logistics. NIOSH staff may ask clarifying questions about the prototype demonstration and evaluation performed during Phase 2. Also, significant prototype modifications or changes should be discussed during this meeting.

You will also need to provide a product instruction manual that explains how to properly use the prototype. If software is a required component, teams must also ship the device (laptop, cellphone, tablet, etc.)  with the software pre-installed . NIOSH evaluators and testers will not be able to download any software onto government owned equipment.  You will also need to provide three samples of the NIOSH Approved®  filtering facepiece model that was used during Phase 2 demonstration. A signed statement attesting that the device is non-toxic to lab personnel handling the device should be part of the instruction manual.

Testing done at NIOSH facilities will verify the results demonstrated in Phase 2 submissions. A test plan will be developed based on the technology and how it was demonstrated. This could involve a wide variety of test methods and approaches to verify performance. Laboratory evaluations will not be used for or compared to approval or certification schemes. Test results will be summarized and reported to a judge panel who will make the final decision on Phase 3 awardees.

Capital Consulting Corporation will cover the shipping and insurance costs of sending your prototype package to NIOSH for Phase 3 evaluation.

If you would like items returned at the end of challenge, an email request should be sent to Capital Consulting.  Phase 3 participants will be responsible for all costs associated with returning equipment, materials, and prototypes.  All items not claimed by Jan. 30th, 2025will become government property and disposed/excessed in accordance with appropriate regulations.

No, all data and information generated will be used for Phase 3 evaluation and Challenge award judging.

NIOSH must receive the shipment no later than May 15, 2024. Unexpected and unforeseen delays must be communicated to Capital Consulting immediately. Packages received after May 15th risk being disqualified from the challenge without proper explanation and/or justification.

Implemented by       

Implemented by Capital Consulting Corporation