Innovations in the fight against Covid-19

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Seeking new ideas and solutions from science and implementing them on the market is of vital importance in times of crisis. Swiss innovators from all parts of the country are helping to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences with their innovations. Many of these start-ups or innovation projects are being supported by Innosuisse.

On 16 March, the Federal Council declared that the COVID-19 pandemic was an “extraordinary situation” and imposed a partial lockdown. The number of applications for short-time work and bridging loans being provided by commercial banks reached an all-time high.

But did the pandemic also paralyse the ability of Swiss companies to act?

Quite the opposite: the past few weeks have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has given an extra boost to innovation and that many start-ups and companies supported by Innosuisse are countering the crisis situation with new ideas or product innovations.

Monitoring of infected persons and digital companions
Many start-ups participating in the Innosuisse coaching programme are at the forefront of tackling the pandemic through their science-based innovations. Examples of this include developments in the field of medicine, such as the solution from UniSieve whose membrane platform technology used for the processing of oxygen in artificial air helps people with Covid-19-related breathing difficulties. Another good example is the start-up Oncobit whose highly sensitive test for monitoring cancer patients can also be used to confirm whether people infected with Covid-19 are contagious and still present a risk to their environment. ““We’re considering adapting the existing technology and have already taken the initial steps with a partner”,” says CEO Seline Eisenring.

Further examples can be found in the field of IoT. These innovations include CARU made by the Zurich-based start-up of the same name. “For many elderly people, the fear of being alone is greater than the fear of Covid-19. Our digital companion CARU aims to create a sense of closeness despite physical distance.”, says Co-CEO Susanne Dröscher, explaining the product which was launched six months earlier than planned for families due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Another solution is Akenza: instead of developing software for new IoT projects of cities and for the private sector, this start-up is providing an automated people counting system for retailers and staff canteens during the Covid-19 crisis.

3D nanofibres for full-body protective suits
There is also great potential for combatting Covid-19 through products and services developed as part of innovation projects between research institutions and companies. This is underlined by a whole host of projects currently being supported by Innosuisse. The SME TB-Safety AG, based in Frick, is conducting research into the development of 3D nanofibres for use in full-body protective suits for medical staff during pandemic outbreaks like this one as part of an innovation project with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), the Spiez Laboratory and the University Hospital of Basel. Another prime example is the cooperation between the start-up Global ID and the three specialist laboratories of the IDIAP Research Institute in Martigny, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO) in Valais. This has produced contactless technology for scanning finger veins which can be used to reliably identify people and to protect sensitive data. “The development of this new contactless technology meets the requirements of the hospital sector which we have been focusing on for months. It would obviously be extremely beneficial to ensure the reliable identification of people while at the same time protecting security (of people and their data) in a pandemic situation like the one we are experiencing with Covid-19.”, says Lambert Sonna, CEO of Global ID.

Annalise Eggimann, Director of Innosuisse, believes there are also positives to be taken from the crisis in the shape of new ideas. “Focusing on innovation during times of turmoil pays off. We are improving our future outlook through innovation.”

An overview of the start-ups and innovation projects funded by Innosuisse which could make a significant contribution to combatting the Covid-19 pandemic (not exhaustive):

Last modification 22.06.2020

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