September 29, 2022

NIOSH to Crowdsource Solutions to Address Counterfeit N95s

A new crowdsourcing competition launched recently by NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory seeks to find solutions to help people identify counterfeit N95 filtering facepiece respirators. The challenge, which is being hosted by the online platform HeroX, is intended to address the influx of fake N95 FFRs into the marketplace, a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to reducing the number of counterfeit N95 FFRs on the market, NIOSH hopes the competition will identify ways to improve the confidence of users who purchase respiratory protection products. The agency has identified the dissemination of information about respirators to the public as one of its main areas of difficulty. NIOSH encourages competitors to consider how information about counterfeit FFRs could be made more understandable, accessible, or streamlined to improve the public’s ability to identify counterfeits.

The competition is divided into two phases. In the first phase, competitors must submit proposals for strategies or tools to address the issue of counterfeit N95 FFRs. Proposals should specify the solutions’ target audiences and describe competitors’ plans for building pilot versions of their ideas for phase two, should they be selected. Six finalists from phase one will be selected to pitch their ideas to a judging panel, which will select four winners. The winners from phase one will each receive $27,500 and will be asked to develop their ideas during phase two. The top competitor from phase two will receive a prize of $35,000.

The challenge is open to individuals or teams, and the deadline for submitting proposals for phase one is Dec. 1. Further details about the challenge are available on the HeroX website.

Related: NIOSH previously partnered with HeroX on a competition designed to identify solutions for overcoming poor fit in workers’ protective clothing. First prize in that challenge was awarded to a submission of a self-conforming gown that adapts to different body types.