3M partners with XPRIZE and young inventors to slow COVID-19 spread
Dec 9, 2020

Peter Diamandis calls the inconsistent use of face masks during the pandemic our “crisis within a crisis.”

“We understand that masks can be ill-fitting, uncomfortable and unfashionable", said Peter, founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, a non-profit that designs competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges.

So, XPRIZE and industry partners like 3M have teamed up for the Next-Gen Mask Challenge, a competition aimed at reimagining protective face masks used to help mitigate  the spread of COVID-19.

The challenge kicked off in July with teams of 15- to 24-year-olds from around the world submitting ideas for a better mask – one that achieves filtration on par with surgical masks and overcomes the top five barriers to mask-wearing, as defined by an XPRIZE-conducted survey.

3M scientists and engineers have helped to mentor the young inventors throughout the challenge, and the company has manufactured and tested the inventors’ mask prototypes. After providing feedback during the qualifying rounds, 3M experts have helped narrow the field to five finalists:

“We are thrilled to partner with XPRIZE in this important global challenge and to support the next generation of innovators,” said Denise Rutherford, 3M’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. “We have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic from all angles and we want to inspire others to join us in the effort.”

XPRIZE has also enlisted the help of CNBC’s “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to sponsor and champion the contest.

“These young creators from around the world give me hope,” said the “Mad Money” host. “All of the most common problems associated with mask wearing are being solved by 15- to 24-year-olds in the Next-Gen Mask Challenge who are inspired to make the world a better place.”

The five finalists presented their mask designs to a panel of judges, which selected a winner for the top $500,000 prize, on Dec. 22.

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