To slightly rephrase an old proverb, innovation is born out of necessity – and never has the world been more in need than now, as Covid 19 continues to rage across the globe. But once again, Ireland is proving its worth as a nation of inventors by coming up with some truly life-changing responses to the pandemic – so much so that we are now ranked fifth in the world for global exports of Covid 19-related goods, according to the OECD.
A recent report from the OECD revealed that exports of Covid 19-related goods are concentrated in a few key countries. The top five global exporters, which together account for 49% of trade, are Germany, the United States, Switzerland, China and Ireland.
This report backs up the findings of a previous survey by StartupBlink, a Swiss-Israeli producer of global startup ecosystem maps, that named Ireland as sixth in a global ranking of countries responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic
Flexibility is key
The pandemic has shown once more how important it is for companies to be flexible in our rapidly changing world, in order to respond to the needs of the market. Many of Enterprise Ireland’s client companies have pivoted to develop solutions in areas such as contact tracing, traveller safety, Medtech and hygiene transparency in the hospitality sector.
Ireland is ranked as one of the top five global MedTech hubs, and many of our top companies have ramped up production in order to meet the world’s demands for nebulisers, ventilators and other treatment and protection equipment. For example, Medtronic, the world’s largest standalone medical device maker, produces ventilators in Galway and has more than doubled its workforce of 250 and moved to round-the-clock production. Enterprise Ireland client company Aerogen has also increased production of its aerosol drug delivery products through ventilators to patients in critical and intensive care. And, Galway-based M&M Qualtech, which produces ventilators, nebulisers and medical monitoring equipment for Medtech customers including Aerogen and Medtronic, has reported capacity demand three to five times higher than pre-crisis levels.
Many Irish companies have also come up with technology solutions in a number of areas to help us through the crisis. Software development company NearForm worked with the HSE to develop Ireland’s national Covid Tracker app, which rapidly notifies those who have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid 19. This technology is now being used in apps in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Scotland, and in several states in the US, including Delaware and Philadelphia.
Other Irish technology companies producing innovative solutions during the crisis include:
- Scheduling software company Swiftqueue – optimising appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres
- Irish identity technology firm Daon– working with Denver International Airport to pilot a multi-faceted ‘seamless travel’ programme, designed to solve the challenges of bringing passengers and employees back to airports
- Internet of Things specialist Taoglas – helping public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes in order to maintain social distancing
- Digital mental health providers SilverCloud Health – opened up part of its platform free of charge to help millions of people cope with the mental impact of Covid 19
- News story tracker company NewsWhip – its Covid19 Live Story Tracker ensures its users receive accurate, real-time data and analytics
- Dublin-based software company Aerospace Software Developments – providing software to airline FlyDubai to monitor the cleanliness of aircraft seat covers
- Cybersecurity exporter Edgescan – helping its clients understand, prioritise and mitigate cybersecurity risks for a remote workforce
- Surface innovations company Kastus– its pioneering patent 24/7 antimicrobial coating technology for touchscreen/other surfaces has been proven to be effective against Covid-19 on surfaces
Other Irish companies are responding to the crisis by using their flair for innovation to come up with answers to help the crisis. Irish engineering firm Combilift is a world leader in forklift trucks and a specialist in solutions for challenging situations such as long loads or in limited space. Its team applied the same kind of ‘outside the box’ thinking to develop the Combi-Ventilate, a splitter device that turns one ventilator into multiple ventilator stations.
Irish biotech company Aalto Bio has announced the availability of a new protein, SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein (code CK 6404), for diagnostic test manufacturers, vaccine developers, and researchers globally, for use in the fight against Covid 19.
Novaerus, an Irish company specialising in medical-grade clean air solutions, produces a patented, portable air disinfection device, the Defend 1050, which has been proven to reduce MS2 Bacteriophage (a surrogate for Covid 19) by 99.99% in just 15 minutes.
Finally, Hibergene Diagnostics has developed an innovative new test for Covid 19, which delivers positive results in just 30 minutes – significantly faster than current tests.
These are just a few of the Irish companies that have responded positively to the current crisis, proving once again that innovation and flexibility are part of our DNA as a country.