How the coronavirus crisis has inspired innovation

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 27 April 2020

It’s heartening to see individuals, industries and start-ups inventing products and ways to strengthen our response to COVID-19.

It is a known fact that crisis inspires innovation. A pandemic like COVID-19 is an opportunity to rack your brains and come up with quick and effective solutions to protect citizens as well as the health workers who are toiling to treat the affected and also to contain the spread of the virus. Of course, the innovations have to be backed with logical thinking, research and development.

Since the pandemic has caused havoc in every individual’s life on this planet, industries, start-ups and even individuals across the world are taking the route of innovation to fight it. And India is never lagging behind in the race. 

In the past few days, we have read about and seen on various platforms how people are massively accelerating the process of innovation and coming up with affordable yet equally effective measures to stop the transmission of the dreaded virus.

Good innovations depend on good ideas. Remember the mask that actor Ronit Roy made with a t-shirt at home? In a video that went viral, you can see Ronit giving instructions on how to make a mask using just a t-shirt. It does not need any kind of sewing. He simply fashions it into a mask that covers one’s mouth, nose and ears, which is an effective way of protecting oneself while stepping out.

Log 9 Materials Pvt Ltd, a Bengaluru-headquartered nanotechnology start-up, has developed a proprietary device for completely neutralising coronavirus and other pathogens on surfaces of various products in demand during this outbreak.

The product named CoronaOven makes use of UV-C light (having wavelength of 253.7 nm) in combination with significant design parameters in order to disinfect surfaces (of various objects, personal protective equipment, etc.) from germs including bacteria and viruses. 

Akshay Singhal, the founder, informs that the device can wipe out the virus in less than 10 minutes from all types of surfaces. He says that the system is specifically designed as the cases are soaring, and decontaminating and reusing masks and PPEs is becoming the need of the hour for health workers.

Singhal points out that it is a known fact that our existing resources are strained and since masks and gears are not available in abundance, disinfecting and reusing or recycling is the only option. 

However, a few health experts have voiced concerns that the reuse or multiple times usage of N95 and surgical masks (most of which are meant for single-use and are disposable), when not done scientifically, could reduce their effectiveness and even increase chances of the caregivers catching various infections.

Therefore, the nanotechnology start-up swung in action just in time and successfully invented a time-critical and effective solution in the form of a disinfection chamber.

Talking about how the CoronaOven works, Singhal clears that it is called so only because it looks like an oven. It was designed based on the study done on the SARS virus and took less than ten days to materialise.

CoronaOven is as easy to use as a microwave. Put your products to be disinfected inside the 20-litre box, turn it on for 10 minutes and be safe, the product uses UV-C light (based upon the scientific principle of UltraViolet Germicidal Irradiation) to stop the spread of Coronviuses and pathogens on the surfaces.

Singhal says that quick thinking and effective measures drive innovation. “The crisis is such that you need to be on your toes. No one thought that something like this would be possible with all of us at our respective homes following lockdown orders. However, a lesson that the crisis has taught us is that productivity drives from a need to do more and be helpful in such times,” he says.

The founder is assertive that when it comes to the innovation sector, this is just the beginning, and there is a lot more that is going to be explored in the coming days. All brilliant ideas with the right technology will take us places; after all, it is an integrated sector.

To strongly and rapidly fight a wide range of pathogens, Forbes Marshall and Swiss NeWater India are committed to providing an eco-friendly disinfectant solution, free of charge, in this critical period, to the health infrastructure like public and private hospitals, laboratories and pharmaceutical industries and also to public governing bodies like municipalities and local councils hospitals and public communities in Pune and Mumbai.

Datta Kuvalekar, director — Technology and Engineering, Forbes Marshall, points out that the world is seeing a lot of shortages in the health infrastructure. However, the only positive thing that the pandemic has actually done for us is that it has got all of us together. 

“For a new Indo-Swiss joint venture, Forbes Marshall and Swiss technology start-up SymbioSwiss, based in Geneva, have joined hands to provide a new and unique chemical-free eco-friendly surface sanitisation system that enables a quick and easy generation of disinfecting water without the need of any large industrial infrastructure. It can be quickly deployed across various regions where basic surface disinfectant is necessary,” he says.

The disinfectant is tested to various pathogenic deactivation test procedures and is effective against vaccinia virus, papovavirus, adenovirus, and poliovirus. In addition to this, the solution appears to have the efficacy to neutralise various new strains of contagious viruses, spores and allergens. The chemical-free new technology has powerful disinfecting properties owing to oxides and radicals in its composition produced by electrolysis with the help of the HydroCleanerTM machine from Swiss NeWater.

Kuvalekar points out that the only raw material required is 99.9 per cent pure common salt, tap water and electricity, and the cost of the disinfectant would be 25 per cent cheaper than the chemical options available in the market. The machine can produce 200-250 litres per shift, and the company can provide anywhere between 600-800 litres of disinfectant per day.

The director explains that the entire process of making the disinfectant goes on — right from the time the salt is actually loaded into the machines and water is supplied, it keeps making new batches which can then be provided.

A crisis can be controlled when the focus is shifted from the problem to effective solutions, and innovation is just that. “India is a densely populated country, so when we think of innovation that is going to help our people, we need to keep in mind the availability and the cost efficiency of it so that these products reach more number of people,” explains Kuvalekar.

He says that this is an indicator that maybe post COVID-19 crisis, the major focus will be on the innovation sector, especially in the health-care industry.

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