From innovative services for the vulnerable in society to outstanding use of technology, here are 14 examples of Irish innovation to emerge during the fight against Covid-19.

In recent weeks we highlighted 17 examples of Irish businesses who demonstrated ingenuity during the onset of the nation’s response to Covid-19/Coronavirus.

These included how Medtronic was doubling its staff to increase production of vital ventilator equipment, how Irish Distillers joined forces with Cork’s Mervue Laboratories to produce hand sanitising gel for the HSE, an online GP service from Nuahealth and Wellola’s secure communications portal for GPs and primary care providers.

Since then the innovation has been continuing with many examples of organisations moving to help vulnerable members of society, hackathons to create battlefield ventilators using 3D printers and examples of how technology from drones to streaming can play a part.

Here are 14 more examples of Irish innovation during the Covid-19 outbreak:

An Post

Postman in Ireland.

A community support action plan being led by the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU) and An Post will see An Post delivery staff across Ireland ‘checking-in’ with older and vulnerable people along their delivery route at least once a week. Working with the charity ALONE postmen and postwomen across the country will call into older and vulnerable customers along their delivery route, particularly those who are living alone in isolated areas. They will check on their well-being by way of a set of standard questions and any requests for provisions or medicines will be relayed directly back to the local HSE team. An Post will also support the delivery of such essential supplies back to these customers.

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland sign outside House of Lords, Dublin.

Bank of Ireland launched a new service to help elderly customers cocooning during the Covid-19 pandemic. Customers who are already self-isolating can nominate another person to make in-branch cash withdrawals and lodgements on their behalf. The new facility has built-in safeguards such as limits on withdrawals and daily monitoring by Bank of Ireland’s dedicated Vulnerable Customer Unit.

Battlefield ventilator/Covid Response Team

3D printer in action.

Following an intensive two-week Galway hackathon a team of engineers and specialists in medical devices have built a prototype emergency ventilator for use in treating critically-ill Covid-19 patients. The Covid Response Team is being supported by a number of multinationals including Boston Scientific and medical experts, in particular anaesthetists. The project has been advanced to the point where the components are being built using 3D-printing technology, which means the design can be delivered anywhere in the world where there are 3D printers.

Clinical trials

Lab worker with a vial.

Critically ill Irish patients with Covid-19 in intensive care units (ICU) are to take part in a global clinical trial evaluating potential treatments for the virus. Facilitated by the Health Research Board (HRB), researchers will work with clinical research facilities, and partners across academia and hospitals. The trial will start in St Vincent’s University Hospital and University Hospital Galway. Beaumont Hospital has signed contracts and other hospitals are preparing to participate, notably Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Limerick and Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

Ireland Together

Ireland together logo in front of rolling hills.

Born during Covid-19 Ireland Together provides access to experts with decades of experience across a full spectrum of business functions, including recruitment and HR, digital transformation, finance, sales, marketing, executive coaching, PR and communications, to name a few. It was founded by entrepreneurs Joanne Griffin, Colin Harris, Louise O’Conor and Paddy Ryan alongside an advisory panel of Jeff and Mindi Caselden, Les Dunne, Fiona Conway, Collete Doyle and Saleena Shaw while working from their own homes and most without ever meeting in person.

Manna.Aero

Man in blue shirt on white coach gesturing with hands while answering a question.

Plans by Bobby Healy’s start-up Manna.Aero to pilot food delivery via drone on the UCD campus through Just Eat and Camile Thai were disrupted by the Coronavirus crisis. However, in typical innovator fashion Healy is not one to waste a good crisis and according to reports is averaging 2,000 test flights a week with a view to using the technology to deliver prescriptions as well as food. The drones fly under a UV light before delivery which destroys any viruses. Healy has form as one of the brilliant minds behind the success of CarTrawler. Manna has already attracted backing from venture capital firms Elkstone Capital and Frontline Ventures.

McAuley Pharmacy

Person at work in a pharmacy.

The McCauley Pharmacy chain, which has 35 branches countrywide, has launched a smartphone app service to facilitate existing customers who wish to order medicines for home delivery. It will also allow doctors and new customers upload prescriptions directly to pharmacists. The app can be downloaded from the various app stores or the McAuley website. The service will operate alongside a telephone ordering and delivery system in to help people to “stay at home” to protect themselves and others and to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Medtronic

medical worker at work.

In recent weeks we reported how Medtronic has doubled its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators, doubling its headcount to 500 people. It has since emerged that the company is to open source the design specifications of one of its ventilators to boost treatment of Covid-19 cases. Medtronic plans to share details for its Puritan Bennett 560 (PB 560) machine in line with guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Software code and other information would also soon be available, the company said. Ventilators are critical in the fight against Covid-19.

Mobility for front line workers

Successful Irish entrepreneurs such as SISU’s Pat Phelan sparked on an interesting idea to hire more than 100 GoCars  to enable frontline workers at hospitals to get to and from work free of charge. Also supporting frontline workers is electric bike company Moby Move which is working with hospitals to provide its fleet of electric bikes for use free of charge by health care staff.

Man and woman standing either side of an electric bike.

Netgigs

Netgigs is is an Australian company ran by Irishman Joe Ward that may have the antidote to the damage that Coronavirus is doing to the global music industry that has seen thousands of gigs and live events being cancelled. Netgigs is an online live music streaming service that allows artists/entertainers to stream their live performances from their home to their fans worldwide on a pay-per-view platform that returns significant royalties back to the artists. “We also want to help music industry workers through this economic downturn by donating a percentage of online ticket sales to organisations like Support Act, who are dedicated to providing support to artists, crew and other industry workers who are affected by the show cancellations,” said Ward.

O’Neills makes scrubs

Medical scrubs hanging up.

Strabane-headquarters sportswear company O’Neills has pivoted to manufacturing scrubs for the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. The company has begun manufacturing the scrubs at its Walkinstown site in Dublin where the fabric will initially be dyed and treated to ensure it has anti-viral properties.

Self Employed Ireland

Smiling man in light blue jacket and white shirt.

Self Employed Ireland (SEI) was set up by serial entrepreneur Eddie Mulrooney to bring together self-employed business owners all over Ireland to share knowledge, improve business partnerships and spread best practice. SEI was due to launch as a paid platform later this year but the Sligo-based businessman decided to bring the launch forward and charge a nominal €2 membership as self-employed business owners struggle with the financial impact of the Coronavirus. Through his research, he found that many start-ups run out of long-term supports and often become vulnerable in business. He recognised a need for a comprehensive and broad-ranging support system for self-employed business owners – of which there are more than 300,000 in Ireland.

Taoglas social distancing

finger touching wireless signals.

Wexford-headquartered company Taoglas unveiled a technology that will help venues to manage crowd sizes and stick to social distancing regulations. The company, a specialist in antennae for the internet of things, has launched its Crowd Insights platform which uses Wi-Fi to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify indoor and outdoor venues about social distance limit breaches in real-time.

Technopath

medical waste container.

Tipperary company Technopath has created a technology that breaks down medical waste resulting from lab testing. The company’s Envetec 200 system is being used by Northwell, New York’s largest healthcare provider, to shred and disinfect infectious waste using a process that kills the Coronavirus that causes Covid-19 as well as other bacteria, spores and pathogens.

Honourable additions

As anticipated, the range of innovations emerging from these shores to battle Covid-19 and keep our lives and businesses on track keep coming and here are two more examples:

Healthwave’s Irish AI bot

Man in navy jacket leaning on a counter in a pharmacy.

 

A digital pharmacy service called Healthwave has developed a Carebot digital assistant that helps indicate if you need to be tested for Covid-19.

Healthwave’s CareBot is a virtual assistant that uses AI and natural language processing to process prescription orders and other health related queries. The CareBot also features an online assessment tool that will indicate whether the user is potentially eligible for COVID-19 testing thereby potentially reducing calls to GPs.

Built by Healthwave founder, pharmacist and coder, Shane O’Sullivan (pictured above), the CareBot was initially created to assist the Healthwave pharmacy team in managing the increased volume of orders and enquiries due to Covid-19. In its first four days of operation, 80pc of calls and texts to the pharmacy were transitioned through the CareBot, freeing up significant time which allowed pharmacists to talk directly with patients needing urgent care, to manage prescriptions and ensure medication was delivered to patients as quickly as possible.

The new Covid-19 feature could also be implemented in GP surgeries that are looking to prioritise phone callers.

Virtual marts for farmers

Two brown cows in Ireland.

The agri sector in Ireland no doubt welcomed the news that the Irish Government is to allow marts to resume trading, albeit with a limited range of services.

Mullingar-based Livestock Live, headed by entrepreneur Brendan Hannigan, has developed software that allows farmers to buy and sell animals online through virtual auctions.

The software can video stream a live auction where animals are dropped off at the mart and shown in the ring to buyers watching and bidding online. Sellers can also upload videos of animals they wish to sell.

The app is free to farmers and the mart is charged a small commission.

According to The Irish Times, the software was trialed at Carnaross Mart in Meath last week with effective results.

No doubt these are just a few examples of how Irish-based professionals are banding together to battle our way through the Covid-19 outbreak. We are open to hearing more stories of ingenuity and innovation during this time.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 1 April, 2020

Recommended