5 Innovations Born Out of the COVID-19 Crisis

Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic reveals that there is still so much that needs to improve, change, and evolve. Our health and financial systems are in much need of reshaping, and we as a society must rise up to these challenges. Innovation, creative design, and altruism have proven to be essential to face this crisis. As such, is it possible to look at the pandemic from the point of view of innovation? What would happen if we see the crisis in the light of opportunity?

It seems like humans have the inherent ability to adapt to changing and challenging environments. We could almost say that we thrive during those times, and when we do, we innovate. A hundred years ago, the world was going through another pandemic, the Spanish Flu. This tragedy resulted in a wave of medical and technological innovations that, even today, have an effect on our lives and health. In the last few decades, we have witnessed how innovation thrives in times of crisis. The 2010 Haiti earthquake presented a humanitarian crisis, but as soon as the earth stopped shaking, innovation came: instant banking that allowed the distribution of money, and interactive maps that signaled to pop-up hospitals and safe-houses. In Europe, the Refugee crisis of 2015 brought about an explosion of social and technological innovation. These creative solutions ranged from route planning to housing, to translation and integration. A study by McKinsie&Company about innovation during the 2008 economic crisis shows that companies that innovate during times of crisis outperform peer companies by 10%, and they also outperform the market by 30% in post-crisis years, proving how investing in innovation during the toughest of times pays off.

And here we are again, in the face of global crisis, with new problems arising every minute. But problem-solving is at the heart of innovation. These are 5 of our favorite examples of governments, organizations, and start-ups that went back to the drawing board to design and repurpose new products and services that stand up to the pandemic today, and also might have a big impact tomorrow. These innovations prove the versatility of human ingenuity in times of crisis:

*[Image Credit: greecefromhome.com]
Greece’s Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 crisis prompted the Greek government to change its ways and step into the digital world. Crisis waits for no one, and while the Greek government acknowledged that this digital transformation had been planned all along, what would have probably taken years to be accomplished, was done in only a couple of months. The government offered its citizens a centralized platform with over 500 governmental services, and developed an SMS system through which citizens can obtain permits to leave their homes. Greece’s tourism industry got hit hard, which drove the greek ministry of tourism to create a platform that allows people to visit Greece from the safety of their homes, connecting them with greek citizens doing cool stuff in amazing places: #greecefromhome.

*[Image Credit: New World Development]
New World Development — Mask Vending Machines

New World Development in partnership with local non-profits has created vending machines that will distribute medical masks kits in low-income neighborhoods in Hong Kong. Masks have become expensive and difficult to get, therefore putting low-income and vulnerable communities at an even greater risk. This innovative machine allows for a contact-free distribution process that protects consumers and sellers, while also making masks available in underserved neighborhoods, reducing the distance people have to travel to get the masks, as well as erasing the need for lines and social agglomerations. New World Development hopes to get their machines to other parts of the world where they might be needed.

*[Image Credit: Frolic Studio]
Frolic Studio — DIY Decontamination Box

Having a mask to protect others and yourself has become tremendously important, but masks are not always readily available, not even for medical personnel. Frolic Studio designed a cheap decontamination box that can extend the life of an N95 mask. Medical masks are not meant to be reused, but the crisis is forcing medical personnel to do it. Frolic’s box, which is made from an Ikea box and UV light, and can be easily built using everyday tools, is an imperfect but quick solution that is saving lives. Frolic Studio chose to make the design open source so it can be used wherever it’s needed.

* [Photo Credit: SIMBIONIX 3D SYSTEMS]
Symbionix — Lung Ultrasound

Point of care lung ultrasound is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Symbionix has developed a module that allows medical personnel to be trained quickly and easily about the manifestations of COVID-19. Ultrasounds also keep the medical staff safer by replacing stethoscopes and CT examinations. Symbionix could revolutionize the way training of medical personnel is done in the future, as well as how we share medical research and techniques worldwide. The module comes with a didactic library, and allows for comparisons between healthy and sick patients, and also displays different levels of sickness severity.

*[Photo Credit: Industryweek.com]
JD.com — Delivery Robots

Born from the need to deliver masks and other needs to the people of Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19, JD.com got autonomous robot cars to deliver food, medicine and other supplies. Limiting human-to-human contact, and keeping people from the streets, these robots delivered over 100 million masks over a 3 day period. Watching them in action, it is obvious that these robots could dramatically alter the transportation of goods to homes. They propose a solution for the last mile issue, presenting an efficient and rapid delivery system. The self-driving cars can deliver up to 30 packages within a 5km radius.

Crisis forces organizations, companies, and individuals to act and react on a different time scale, to be more courageous about making mistakes, and to push the boundaries of work, expertise, and creativity. Companies around the globe are designing solutions by repurposing their products or creating new products that are helping in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that is helping hospitals and medical personnel, people working from home, or everyone. So maybe this crisis is the perfect opportunity to let creativity run wild, get your team to brainstorm crazy ideas, identify a problem, and find a solution through innovation.