Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the need to innovate has ushered in a new era of collaboration between key stakeholders that has generated unique solutions to combat the crisis. The pandemic revealed certain truths in the innovation ecosystem: mighty corporates can also be vulnerable; nimble startups must pivot or perish; powerful governments cannot exist in isolation and the academia needs industry partners to drive a new knowledge economy.
Across India, state governments partnered with startups to face the multiple challenges triggered by COVID-19. For example, the Kerala state government collaborated with Kochi-based tech startup Asimov Robotics to deliver food, medicines and other consumables inside isolation wards. The three-wheeled robot called ‘KARMI-BOT’ was also used to disinfect the hospitals and used items and facilitate video calling between the patient and doctors. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (MI) technologies are leveraged to operate the high-end robot.
In another instance, Hyderabad-based Vera Smart Healthcare partnered with the government of Telangana to launch a set of initiatives to provide affordable COVID-19 screening tests to the public. The startup launched iMASQ (Intelligent Monitoring Analysis Services Quarantine), a fleet of 170 buses that collected samples and offered remote consultations with their on-site doctors. The startup has also partnered with the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
The pandemic turned famed opponents into allies to fight a good cause. For example, in the early phase of the pandemic in 2020, tech giants Apple and Google announced they were joining hands to find an effective solution to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading. They announced that the collaboration would leverage their superior technological capabilities and dominant global market presence. The tech behemoths entered into a partnership to develop a Bluetooth-based contact tracing smartphone technology that would alert users about COVID-infected people in their vicinity. Google and Apple also emphasised their commitment to support public health organisations in the battle against the pandemic.
Among other initiatives, Intel India collaborated with stakeholders across the ecosystem, including academia, to find novel ways to battle the virus. The corporate partnered with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) to deploy an affordable AI-based platform to enable a better understanding of coronavirus genome sequencing for patients with comorbidities.
Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University partnered with a local textile company to create the Ultra Mask, a reusable, ecologically-friendly mask that is made from antimicrobial compounds extracted from seeds. The university’s research findings showed that the mask’s anti-bacterial coating kills 99 per cent of harmful bacteria.
Several big businesses embarked on social innovation strategies to support employees, customers and communities amid the pandemic. For instance, New York State partnered with Google to launch a web-based tool to help individuals with resources, such as food and housing.
The above examples are just some of the ways in which the diverse innovation ecosystem collaborated to find smart solutions to combat COVID-19. Although the pandemic has disrupted life as we once knew it, the global health crisis has compelled all stakeholders to get out of their comfort zones and join hands to pave the way for an improved and much-the-wiser post-pandemic world.