Shaping the Future of Innovation Beyond COVID-19

In these days of gloom and doom when the pandemic has wreaked havoc on mankind and brought powerful global economies to a virtual standstill, a silver lining is visible in the form of the resilience of businesses to innovate and adapt to the new normal. Companies across industries are coming up with creative ways to stay in business and turn the crisis into an opportunity that will sustain them even after the dust has settled on the pandemic.

COVID-19 has rewritten the rules of doing business and thrown open the floodgates of innovation at an unprecedented level. The pandemic has not only profoundly changed the daily lives of people, but it has also spurred innovation across businesses and markets.  

Here are three unique ways in which the innovation ecosystem has responded to COVID-19. 

Technology is shaping the future of education

COVID-19 has brought learning to the doorstep like never before. With schools and universities closed indefinitely, educators are compelled to find innovative ways of delivering quality education online. The sudden switch to smart classrooms by leveraging technology tools, has accelerated the adoption of digital technology for students and educators around the world. Educational institutes had to develop innovative and creative methodologies to impart learning and transform the traditional education landscape into a more democratised one. Students have easy access to teachers through technology tools. Online classrooms, podcasts and videos delivered on various devices have ensured that learning is not disrupted for the student community at large.

Key EdTech players have greatly benefited from the increased digitation of education amid the pandemic. In India, EdTech platforms, such as BYJU’s, Vedantu and Unacademy have registered phenomenal growth amid the pandemic. While BYJU’s grossed INRRs 350 crore in revenue, Vedantu raised $100 million in venture funding and recorded a growth of 220 per cent during the lockdown.

Social entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the pandemic  

India’s entrepreneurs are building radical solutions  that cover the ambit of the pandemic, such as diagnostic kits, remote monitoring, ventilators and preventive technologies, among others. Accessible and affordable tech-led solutions to combat COVID-19 have been the hallmark of India’s innovation ecosystem amid the health crisis. For example, cleantech startup Chakr that is incubated in IIT-Delhi has developed Chakr DeCoV, an ozone-based decontamination device to enable the safe reuse of N95 masks. The sustainable solution decreases biomedical waste and decontaminates N95 masks in 90 minutes for safe reuse by healthcare professionals. It also lowers the risk of infection and hazard to the environment.

Alongside startups, even large conglomerates have risen to the challenge to work on innovative COVID-related solutions. Investing in social good is the new motto adopted by multinationals as they believe the approach will earn them goodwill long after the pandemic ends.

Digital surveillance will reduce health risks

As experts believe epidemics are a rising threat to humanity, the COVID-19 scare has triggered infrastructure innovation to ensure that citizens are protected during natural and biological disasters. In the era of COVID-19, a  spurt of  innovation in AI-led urban surveillance and face recognition algorithms has enabled governments to identify people who are at risk of contracting the infection, and thereby ensuring that social distancing norms are followed. 

For example, the Kerala Police, in association with the State Health Department, has leveraged technology to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading further. Innovative methods, such as contactless pass verification facility and geofencing technology, monitor the movement of high-risk individuals under home quarantine and maintain a record of primary and secondary contacts.

The post-pandemic innovation roadmap 

The pandemic has laid threadbare the lack of innovation in both the public and private sectors and compelled policymakers, startups and conglomerates to take a more active role in building a robust innovation pipeline. 

If anything, COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of innovation and helped key stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem to discover better ways to use technologies. Undoubtedly, the businesses that have emerged unscathed from the lockdown are in a stronger position to build back better and focus on transformative solutions and innovation for the public good. However, to sustain the momentum of innovation, it is imperative that this level of resilience and agility has to be  maintained beyond the pandemic. Leaders in the innovation ecosystem need to reflect on how to ensure customer delight post COVID-19 as it’s most likely that customer preferences will stay the same.

Therefore, the concept of open innovation needs to be embraced by governments, startups and corporates as it will encourage a mindset that allows thinking outside the box and adopting unconventional approaches to doing business. Collaborative partnerships will open up avenues for value creation and set new standards for research and development. 

Given this context, COVID-19 has drastically altered the innovation landscape, prompting business leaders to tackle key societal challenges and the needs of customers in inspiring ways. By continuing to lead with empathy and insight even beyond the pandemic, organisations big and small will be better positioned to innovate for the future.