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XPRIZE and Cognizant Announce Grand Prize Winners in Pandemic Response Challenge to Restart Economies Around the World
Winning AI models from VALENCIA IA4COVID19 of Spain and JSI vs COVID of Slovenia will help support decision-makers in determining pandemic intervention policies to safely reopen society

LOS ANGELES (March 9, 2021) XPRIZE, the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, in partnership with Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH), one of the world's leading technology and professional services companies, today announced the Grand Prize Winners in the $500K Pandemic Response Challenge. The four-month global competition was designed to harness the power of data and artificial intelligence in equipping policymakers, health officials and business leaders with the insights and guidance necessary to implement public safety measures that help keep local economies open while minimizing virus outbreaks as vaccines become more widely available. These decision-makers are encouraged to use the results, methodologies and technology from the challenge as reference on approaches to minimize potential outbreaks, now and moving forward.

Winning first place honors is the VALENCIA IA4COVID19 (Valencia, Spain) team, coordinated by Dr. Nuria Oliver, Commissioner of the Presidency of the Generalitat Valenciana, and J. Alberto Conejero, Director of the Applied Mathematics Department at Universitat Politècnica de València. In second place is JSI vs COVID (Ljubljana, Slovenia), coordinated by Mitja Lustrek, Head of the Ambient Intelligence Group at the Jozef Stefan Institute, whose team members were previous competitors in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. These top-performing teams were selected from among 48 finalists in 17 countries. Both teams will share equally the total prize purse of $500,000, however judges have chosen to distinguish team VALENCIA IA4COVID19 as first place due to their exemplary submissions. In total, over 100 teams throughout the world initially joined the competition.

The Pandemic Response Challenge required teams to build effective data-driven AI systems capable of accurately predicting COVID-19 transmission rates and prescribing intervention and mitigation measures that, with testing in “what-if” scenarios, were shown to minimize infection rates as well as negative economic impacts. The winning models will be made available to policymakers, business leaders, and health officials worldwide as they consider strategies for safely reopening society and restoring the global economy.

"We are absolutely thrilled to announce the winners of the Pandemic Response Challenge, and are extremely grateful to Cognizant for their support during this competition,” said Amir Banifatemi, Chief Innovation and Growth Officer of XPRIZE. “This month marks a year since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak globally, and since then we have sought out various ways in which XPRIZE can help to identify and accelerate possible solutions for COVID-19 as well as strategies to keep people safe while mitigating for a back to normal world. Our hope now is to implement the methodology and technology identified via this challenge into emergency response plans for local governments worldwide, utilizing artificial intelligence to better protect everyone – from the most vulnerable in our society to the most essential workers – against future pandemics.”

“We salute the ingenuity and dedication of the two winning teams of the Pandemic Response Challenge, VALENCIA IA4COVID19 and JSI vs COVID, and thank all who participated in this global competition,” said Brian Humphries, CEO of Cognizant. “It’s amazing what can happen when you bring together creative minds in data science, computer programming, machine learning, and epidemiology. Their data-driven, AI-based models will help policy makers and health officials safely restart economies and learn how to harness these technologies to tackle future public health crises.”

Contestants’ AI models were evaluated by an independent judging panel comprising academics, pandemic response specialists, AI experts, and epidemiologists, among others. Both grand prize-winning teams succeeded in creating effective models and meeting judging criteria that included both quantitative metrics and qualitative factors such as:

  • Actionability and Usability of the models in real-world settings;
  • Inclusivity and Fairness, which assessed how the models take into account particularly vulnerable groups;
  • Collaborative Contributions that awarded teams who created open source models or contributed data and models for the shared success of all;
  • Innovation, which considered whether teams found innovative ways to extend the scope of the Challenge.

Complete judging criteria and Challenge guidelines are available on the XPRIZE website.

VALENCIA IA4COVID19 has collaborated with the Valencian government since March 2020 to leverage data science in the fight against COVID-19. Ultimately, the team’s winning model successfully forecasted epidemiological evolution through their use of AI and data science. JSI vs COVID worked to develop accurate predictors of COVID-19 infections using a combination of a SEIR epidemiological model and machine learning. Through the Challenge, both teams hope to achieve more accurate models for predicting the evolution of COVID-19 that can be used in their respective countries and beyond.

In addition to the two grand prize winners, eight other teams have received honorable mentions and will each receive $3,000 in AWS credits for cloud and compute services, courtesy of AWS, a supporting partner of the Challenge. These teams are:

●  metis2020 (Los Angeles, Calif., US)

●  mvsm (Berlin, Germany)

●  CoronaSurveys (Madrid, Spain)

●  Nixtamal AI (Mexico City, Mexico)

●  Shanvi (San Diego, Calif., US)

●  Kangaroos (Ultimo, Australia)

●  ADVANCE4COVID (Rochester, NY, US)

●  Nebraska team (Omaha, Neb., US)

All teams competing in the Pandemic Response Challenge used Cognizant’s foundational research and Evolutionary AI™ modeling as a baseline, building out their models using data compiled by the Oxford COVID-19 Government response tracker (based at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government). The Pandemic Response Challenge was first launched in November 2020, and comprised two phases:

●  Phase 1, concluded in January 2021: Contestants analyzed local COVID-19 data, existing intervention strategies, and common mitigation policies to develop and test prediction models capable of anticipating global infection spikes.

●  Phase 2, concluded in February 2021: Contestants developed a “prescriptor” model, which could suggest realistic intervention plans for reopening global economies while minimizing the number of COVID-19 cases and the cost of deploying intervention plans.

To facilitate development of their proposed solutions, teams were offered free cloud and computing services from AWS.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a vast spectrum of unprecedented government and community interventions. The Pandemic Response Challenge used the most advanced AI technology, coupled with some of the most creative minds in the fields of data science, computer programming, machine learning, and more, to jumpstart new strategies for effectively reopening societies and restarting economies safely for everyone – as well as test scenarios that might be applied going forward.

Moving forward, XPRIZE and Cognizant, along with International Telecommunication Union (ITU), are expanding these efforts beyond the scope of this competition to one of a public platform and ecosystem that encourages the convening of AI and data while enabling the contributions of experts and thought leaders of the global community of public health. Details of the public platform will be announced soon. Those interested in joining and contributing to these efforts are encouraged to contact XPRIZE at

Learn more by watching this film explaining the Pandemic Response Challenge.


XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal, $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, $10 Million XPRIZE Rainforest, $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, $6 Million XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing, $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, and $500K Pandemic Response Challenge. For more information, visit

About Cognizant

Cognizant (Nasdaq-100: CTSH) is one of the world's leading professional services companies, transforming clients' business, operating and technology models for the digital era. Our unique industry-based, consultative approach helps clients envision, build and run more innovative and efficient businesses. Headquartered in the U.S., Cognizant is ranked 194 on the Fortune 500 and is consistently listed among the most admired companies in the world. Learn how Cognizant helps clients lead with digital at or follow us @Cognizant.

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Nicole Ryan, XPRIZE

Jodi Sorensen, Cognizant


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