The arrival of the Coronavirus onto the world’s stage has brought into sharp focus the need for businesses to combine thinking on their feet with innovation and creativity. As we celebrated World Intellectual Property Day on the 26th April, it is a chance to focus on the role intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity, Albright IP’s managing director Robert Games takes a look at how things might play out for the companies which are willing to ‘think smart’…
With the NHS crying out for ventilators, and personal protective equipment such as masks, scrubs and face shields, it’s those companies that can demonstrate agility and manufacturing flexibility that are proving best placed to respond. We’ve seen some great examples of businesses which have recognised the need and taken a creative approach to their design, manufacturing processes and product lines.
At one end of the scale, you’ve got companies like Ineos and Dyson switching design and production to hand sanitiser and ventilators respectively. Ineos have committed to building a whole new manufacturing facility in just 10 days with a planned one million bottles of much-needed hand sanitiser due to come off its production lines each day – something that will be replicated in Germany.
Leading from the front
Dyson is working in partnership with The Technology Partnership (TTP) on a brand-new ventilator design called the CoVent which can be made quickly and at high volumes. Using Dyson’s existing Digital Motor design, as well as the company’s air purification products, the new product will deliver safe and consistent ventilation for COVID-19 patients.
Another UK company, Gtech, more familiar with the world of household appliances and vacuum cleaners, has made two ventilator designs available free of charge (www.gtech.co.uk/ventilator) after the government decided it no longer required the company’s assistance.
There’s the fantastic partnership between University College London, NHS clinicians and Mercedes Formula 1 which has developed a new breathing aid which can deliver oxygen to the lungs without the need for a ventilator.
And there’s the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium which has brought together some big names in the industrial, technology and engineering sectors, including Airbus, BAE Systems, Ford, Rolls Royce and Siemens. They are pooling their creative resources to develop new ventilator technology at speed.
At the same time, Innovate UK has been leading from the front and set up a competition to encourage business-led innovation in response to COVID-19. It’s offering a total of up to £20m and the winners are due to be announced on May 1st.
It’s encouraging to see so many organisations putting competitiveness to one side and coming together during this unprecedented time. Keeping their innovation and creativity muscles flexed in this way will stand them in good stead once we emerge from the other side of this pandemic.
This continued approach to innovation will keep them better placed for whatever the next chapter looks like, as will their employees who will very likely have learned new skills and expertise. But it’s not only the world-renowned brands that are demonstrating their flexibility when it comes to addressing the current challenges being faced in the health service and wider carer sectors
Celebrating our local innovation
In the South West we have our own business heroes that should be celebrated such as Emma Willis the Gloucestershire fashion house that has turned its hand to producing scrubs for NHS frontline staff; the Charlton Kings school, Balcarras, that’s used its 3D printer to make face shields;
And Staverton-based company Safran has joined forces with Decathlon and Segula Technologies to produce face protection masks. The masks are adapted from Decathlon’s Easybreath Subsea snorkelling mask. They’ve also made the adaptation design available via open access to anyone who wants to make the masks using their own 3D printer.
Further afield is the Canadian boy scout who deserves an honorary mention! He designed and printed facemask ear guards using ingenuity and his own 3D printer. He’s now shared his creation so anyone with a 3D printer can download and print his design.
Keep the innovation going
This approach to innovation and creativity perfectly sums up what World IP day stands for and showcases the potential within all businesses to innovate when they put their mind to it. There’s a humbling generosity of focus at the moment on sharing ideas, designs, equipment and know-how, and this is absolutely how it should be if we’re going to ensure the health service, the care sector and more besides have the right tools and equipment to enable them to do their jobs as safely as possible.
While it’s quite right for companies to be putting collaboration first in the current climate, it’s also important for companies who want to stay ahead of the competition and grow their businesses to look after their intellectual property.
When we final emerge from this unprecedented chapter in our shared lives, I would encourage businesses to look back at what they’ve learned, capture any innovative ideas or processes that will help them in the future, and continue to encourage creativity among their workforces.