There is no doubt that the current COVID-19 developments are changing the way people go about their daily lives and the way they work. For entrepreneurs, in particular, those are times that test their ability to not only adapt to this new situation, but also find creative solutions to contribute positively to it.
At YES!Delft, we are lucky to have some of the brightest examples of innovation, creativity and technical excellence. From developing new generation air purification and ventilation technologies, to smart solutions for diagnosing and monitoring patients at home, to using UV light to disinfect medical equipment in a matter of seconds, startups are working around the clock to add their value to the current situation. And they’re not the only ones.
Contributing to a cleaner living and working environment
VFA Solutions, in which VFA stands for Virus Free Air, is an expert in the field of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and filtration technologies. Its work focuses on air cleaning and disinfection from hazardous airborne contaminants such as fine particles as well as bio aerosols like bacteria, viruses, spores and fungi, among others. “The corona crisis feels like the last droplet that the market needed to realize the importance of proper air quality and its impact on people’s health,” says founder Eliane Khoury.
VFA’s ASPRA air purification solutions help purify indoor environments – and at the moment largely healthcare institutions – by removing airborne viruses, pathogens and dust particles. “Inside our device, bio aerosols are guided through an electric field, where the majority are killed or deactivated. The viruses, bacteria and other pathogens are then captured in the collector (the filter) and permanently removed from the air, thus reducing the risk of spreading.”
Because sales volumes are growing for VFA, yet certain components are either not available or have a long delivery time, the team has had to be creative and has decided to simplify the design of their products and outsource production to partners and suppliers.
UV Smart, another startup in the YES!Delft portfolio, also plays its part in helping hospitals and healthcare centers maintain a clean working environment. Born out of the need to minimise the spread of resistant organisms and viruses, and maintain the highest possible hygiene in healthcare, the company has developed an innovative solution based on UV light that helps disinfect medical instruments and devices within seconds.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of hospitals in the Netherlands have approached the team to use their technology in disinfecting face masks so medical personnel can reuse them. “We have been working around the clock on a suitable solution for our customers,” says co-founder Daan Hoek. “The first 20 products with our technology are being delivered to different hospitals in the last week of March. From now on, we have to scale up production as fast as possible to get our devices available for the various hospitals.”
Daan and his team are also thinking about ways to offer their technology internationally.
Working towards more efficient and risk-free screening
Without question, healthcare professionals are among the people who are most exposed to the risk of contracting the corona virus. Hospitals have taken multiple measures to curb that risk and startups are looking for ways to contribute.
Innovattic is a company that builds digital solutions for social impact, including apps, websites and serious games. Since the coronavirus has been spreading, the startup has been approached by the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) to develop the CoronaBox, a medical kit that (potential) patients can take home to do a self-check.
“We are making a CoronaBox with a thermometer and an oxygen saturation measurement device so potential corona patients can go home and do the necessary measurements,” says Lauwerens Metz, CEO of Innovattic. “That way, they will not infect other people in the hospital and at the same, the box can help monitor them from their home in case their health deteriorates fast.”
This solution can not only help screen more people, but also allow healthcare personnel to focus on the cases that are most urgent, without losing the overview of everyone else who might need their attention.
For those patients who do need to be examined at the hospital, though, Delmic has developed a different solution. As a spin-off of the TU Delft and the materials institute AMOLF, the startup makes microscopes for (academic) research in materials and life sciences. “Our current proposal is not in our core business at all so that has been a big change,” says CEO Sander den Hoedt. Yet a change that he and his team have embraced in order to help minimise the impact of the coronavirus.
What they have developed is called the DAAD system, or the Diagnose At A Distance system, which makes it possible for medical staff to examine potential patients without coming in direct contact with them.
“This solution allows doctors to screen patients without using personal protection measures, thus reducing the chance of doctors getting infected as well as patients getting infected from their protective gear.” The first system is being rolled out in the last week of March and Sander and his team are looking to scale their solution from there.
Somnox is a startup that is developing a soft robotic that makes sure users have the best night’s sleep possible. Over the past few weeks, the team has adapted to the current coronavirus developments in several different ways. On the one hand, they have made all their sleep knowledge available for free since “sleep is an amazing immune system booster,” says CEO Julian Jagtenberg. On the other hand, “we are also making some of our products available for healthcare employees to borrow so they can get the rest they deserve for free.”
In addition to that, Somnox has also taken on a more creative approach to contributing to the current corona developments. With the help of the 3D printers in their office, they are making ventilation masks out of Decathlon snorkeling masks and aim to deliver them to hospitals that are preparing for the peak. Anyone with a 3D printer is encouraged to join.
In the meantime, Eliane from VFA has also been busy setting up a new, similar initiative to fight the shortage of face masks for healthcare personnel.
At the end of the day, solving this crisis is about innovation, creativity and working together, and those startups seem to be on the right track.