Innovation and R&D During Covid-19

Goals

To obtain information that reveals how R&D and development of new products, not in healthcare, are being innovative during COVID-19, along with what their concerns may be during the pandemic.

Early Findings

Food Innovation During COVID-19

  • Food Navigator is in the process of conducting a survey of R&D operations during COVID-19. Onboarding of new brands is not a top priority right now for most food retailers, many are more focused on "rationalizing SKUs" than adding new ones. Additionally, R&D during lockdown is not easy. The results are yet to be released.

Switching Gears

  • Many breweries have switched from brewing to making hygiene products. AB In Bev is making alcohol and hand sanitizer.
  • Coca-Cola is redeploying resources to provide logistics and supply chain support to a not-for-profit to help produce face shields.
  • Procter & Gamble (P&G) has responded to the hand sanitizer crisis by installing new production lines in five manufacturing sites around the world. When fully operational, the company will produce 45,000 liters per week, and most of this supply will go to hospitals, health authorities and relief organizations.
  • HP Inc is designing and producing essential parts for medical responders and hospitals, thanks to its 3D Printing team and Digital Manufacturing Partner Network.
  • Fashion and beauty brands have shifted gears and are producing supplies needed for the pandemic like hand sanitizer, gowns, and masks.

Shifting Focus to Those in Need

  • The LEGO Foundation will donate US $50 million to ensure children, particularly those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, continue to have access to learning through play. They will reach children in emergency situations with essential supplies, ensuring education and play across communities most in need.

Frugal Innovation

  • MIT researchers have invented an open-source, low-cost ventilator that could be built for just $100, compared to the $30,000 commercial ventilator. This solution shows the power of frugal innovation, a disruptive strategy.
  • According to Fast Company, "frugal innovation is the need of the hour in the U.S., with the economy decimated by coronavirus. U.S. firms need a frugal and agile mind-set to not only survive during the current health crisis but also to innovate for success in the recessionary post-coronavirus word. A drastically new world where cost-conscious customers will seek more value for less." They go on to further state that corporate American is ill-equipped to innovate frugally and flexibly. They instead rely on big labs, big budgets, and a rigid go to market process. They go on to state that R&D must keep it simple right now, reuse existing resources, and think and act horizontally by using smaller and nimbler manufacturing and distribution networks.

Forced Innovation

  • The Covid-19 pandemic has nearly "instantly and very dramatically pivoted the priorities of some makers, start-up founders, entrepreneurs, researchers and doers — the innovators — to solving problems related to the pandemic and preparing for any in the future.
  • “Every [tech] entrepreneur that I know is spending time on the pandemic response,” CEO of global start-up accelerator The Founder Institute Adeo Ressi tells CNBC Make It. “Many innovations will result from this global focus.”
  • There are many start-ups developing tools to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. That includes things like artificial intelligence spread modeling, symptom-tracking solutions, chatbots for diagnoses and people-tracking with nearby infection notification,
  • For exmaple, Y Combinator-backed start-up Inokyo, which builds and installs autonomous checking for retail stores, has used its technical knowledge to build a product, Act, specifically to help companies deploy contact-tracing technology to their workplaces and warehouses, Y-Combinator partner Jared Friedman tells CNBC Make It. “It uses cameras and computer vision technology to see visually which employees have been in proximity to each other,” Friedman tells CNBC Make It. “Inokyo originally developed this advanced technology for grocery shopping (similar to Amazon Go), and has rapidly adapted it to this new use case.”
  • There are also start-ups working to address problems of the quarantined population trying to adapt. This space includes things like digital teleworking tools, home-schooling solutions, safe food delivery solutions, therapy and stress coping mechanisms, as well as symptom tracking innovation. One example of such a start-up is a Y-Combinator backed start-up called Outschool, which produces online video chat classes taught by independent teachers.

Results of Initial Research

  • As this initial hour progressed, it became apparent there is more information out there about innovation during this time. Albeit, most is in some way related to COVID-19, which is to be expected.

Proposed next steps:

You need to be the project owner to select a next step.
We propose research that would identify 5-7 additional companies that are being innovative during this time that are not healthcare companies. We will provide an overview of what the company is doing that is considered innovative during this time.
Additionally, we recommend research that would locate 2-3 insights on how the pandemic will affect innovation in R&D for years to come. For each we will provide a thorough explanation, relevant quotes, and examples.
Finally, we recommend research that would identify 2-3 concerns or issues that R&D/Innovation is experiencing due to the pandemic. For each, we will describe the issue and gives examples of companies that experiencing the issue, along with any relevant solutions they are using during this time.