EARTO Members’ Actions against COVID-19

As key RD&I actors, RTOs around the world are currently developing an array of supporting activities in the fight against COVID-19, while having to face in parallel their own technology infrastructures’ operational challenges.

At EU level, active in the newly launched EU projects against COVID-19, four EARTO members are working on the development of rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests, new treatments and new vaccines. CEA (France) is participating in the Fight-nCoV project which will be used to develop a new type of antiviral treatment, establishing animal challenge model. Fraunhofer (Germany) and SIB (Switzerland) are involved in the EXSCALATE4CoV project, aiming at identifying molecules capable of targeting the virus and developing a tool effective for countering future pandemics. Helmholtz (Germany) is a lead partner for 2 EU projects: CORESMA, which will give an outbreak response using tools, such as artificial intelligence, and RiPCoN, which develops a rapid interaction profiling of the virus. AIT is also taking a leading role in a new EU project called STAMINA, in which a new system for managing future pandemics is being developed and at the same time, is participating in the “SHOT-COVID-19” study, part of H2020 research project SHOTPROS, which investigates the current work demands, dynamics and stress of European street patrol officers during the COVID-19 crisis. EURECAT, supported by ACCIO, recently won one of the categories of the European Hackathon (#EUvsVirus), which was organised by the European Council of Innovation with the Sewers4COVID project. This project allows to predict outbreaks and the evolution of COVID-19 from the wastewater analysis using artificial intelligence (AI) and microbiology tools.

Examples of their current support to the fight against COVID-19:

  • ACCIO (Spain) creates a portal to collect and contact companies that offer technology, medical equipment or production capacity;
  • AIT (Austria) develops a modern tour planning system which optimises the use of mobile medical teams, home care and the provision of auxiliary persons (e.g. in-home quarantine) and a SIMULATE software tool which can examine flows of people and evaluate the effectiveness of various measures. AIT provides its know-how, infrastructure and service experience for high-throughput testing of patient samples for COVID-19 infection and offers its Telehealth Service used in standard care for monitoring chronically ill patients at home, to support the care of infected persons put under home quarantaine in order to use the resources of the national health system more efficiently. Together with the Medical University Vienna, Medical University Graz, Lech-Zürs Tourism and the Management Center Innsbruck AIT set up an online longitudinal study to investigate COVID-19 symptoms and takes also part in an Austrian research group, funded by the Federal State of Lower Austria, in order to develop a low-cost and easy-to-use smell test to detect COVID-19 infection. In this regard, AIT develops an antibody test for clinical diagnostic laboratories which determines whether a patient has had a SARS-CoV-2 infection and has already produced antibodies against the virus.  AIT also analyses changes in mobility behaviour in Vienna using taxi data and conducts an Austria-wide corona study, which enhances better preparedness for similar situations in the future;
  • AIST (Japan) develops a genetic testing system (GeneSoC) which can detect COVID-19 in 15 minutes with a similar detection sensitivity of conventional PCR;
  • ARMINES (France) manufactures protective equipment, hydro-alcoholic gel and respirators as well as submits two proposals to French National Research Agency – call for tenders (supporting tools to anticipate and limit tension and risk of rupture in hospitals, developing “socio-economics of masks” in the absence of vaccines and treatment and providing technical support to a replica of the TULIPE bench);
  • ATIGA (Spain), through its centers, is involved in the control of food safety, the improvement of hospital processes and the production of respirators with low-cost materials;
  • CEA (France) puts forward several actions, such as conducting studies of the pathophysiology of coronavirus, diagnostic capacities, testing the effectiveness of hydroxy-Chloroquine, producing respiratory devices and donating masks to hospitals and municipalities and advising national authorities and scientific community on innovative scientific, technological and therapeutic proposals;
  • CETMA (Italy) develops a project for installation of mini mobile hospitals and new products, such as lighting devices with integrated purification systems, prone breathing immobilizer, micronebulizers for sanification, fashion jackets with active masks and purification systems, smart operating shelter;
  • CSEM (Switzerland) is developing a rapid, highly sensitive serological test to simultaneously trace for past infections of COVID-19, Influenza or SARS. CSEM also partners with hospitals to explore remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients with the help of its wearable vital signs technology and supports authorities with its available stock in medical and protective equipment;
  • CSIRO (Australia) is involved in key research in the rapid global response to the COVID-19 outbreak. CSIRO is enhancing Australia’s preparedness and helping the development of a new vaccine and has started testing potential vaccines. CSIRO is also involved in developing point-of-care diagnostic testing and treatments for COVID-19, and is assisting industry in the development of PPE including face-masks;
  • DTI (Denmark) makes available its knowledge and facilities, including a collaboration with two Danish companies where DTI CT-scans and measures components for respirators for the European market. DTI also enables the issuing of measurement reports and full documentation of the components  for the health sector and puts forward its printers, as 3D-printed alternatives, to spare parts for hospital equipment which the usual suppliers cannot deliver;
  • EURAC (Italy) is providing laboratory equipment for the diagnostic tests of COVID-19 and also currently reviewing the legal framework for providing technical experts to support the staff in the laboratories and to increase capacities;
  • EURECAT (Spain), putting forward its capabilities, takes many initiatives, such as: developing a methodology for validation tests for ready-made masks and masks’ material, conducting COVID-19 diagnosis, manufacturing medical devices (masks, – artificial – ventilators and other products) and tailored surfaces and materials, collaborating in a project related to biomarkers of progression and study of the mechanism of immunopathogenicity, donating single-use foetal monitoring belts for pregnant women to prevent infection and using data driven models and artificial intelligence. EURECAT is also involved in the manufacture of protective screens produced by 3D printing to fill the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare staff;
  • Fedit (Spain) takes enormous initiatives through its members, that are mobilising their capacities, resources and infrastructure to help Spanish Government, (including providing solutions for detergent or disinfection, testing and 3D manufacturing of respirators, digital capabilities in data processing, AI, platform development and trend analysis, management of confinement, treatments and vaccines, research in other materials and exit strategy and restart of the economy);
  • FFA (Norway) is collaborating with the Norwegian Research Council to gather information about the impact of COVID-19 in their institutes;
  • Flanders Make (Belgium) frees up €1 million to technologically contribute to the fight against COVID-19 (co-participating in new breathing equipment, infrared fever measurement, remote auscultation and production of FFP2 masks) and supports businesses to examine how they could apply social distancing in their processes. Flanders Make also supports several initiatives to boost the design and manufacturing of ideas and prototypes such as e.g. a respirator, a Remote Auscultation for COVID-19 patients, FFP2 masks, an alternative to a battery supply for medical equipment currently out of stock;
  • Fraunhofer (Germany) rises with a series of sustainable measures and is committed to take steps towards vaccine development and better diagnostics, while accelerating drug testing with 4D concept and PCA technology. In parallel, Fraunhofer launches a challenge to identify the best 3D-printable designs to enable immediate, decentralised production of emergency ventilation equipment. Fraunhofer is also a member to the Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) initiative, which is designed to be incorporated in national Corona mobile phone apps as a contact tracing functionality and allows for the integration into the processes of national health services. In parallel, Fraunhofer assists manufacturers who make components for personal protective equipment (PPE). Last but not least, Fraunhofer develops an open access hub (as an extension on SAIRA) offering a platforming for the exchange and search for technologies, findings and best practices on COVID-19.
  • Helmholtz (Germany) makes key contributions to overcoming the COVID-19 crisis in the majority of its 19 member centres. Helmholtz’ powerful, cutting-edge infrastructures allow researchers from all fields to study different aspects of the pandemic. Examples include drug screening capabilities, particle sources for submolecular analyses, and big data and AI applications to investigate molecular processes at the cellular level. Helmholtz is working to identify potentially active substances, such as medications and vaccines and is also studying the dynamics of how the infection spreads among the population, with an online tool to track the course of the epidemic, and providing policymakers with interdisciplinary advice on public health measures;
  • HVM Catapult (UK) is closely involved in the discussions with Government to support rapid progress on the ventilator challenge; and, through its member, CPI, will support efforts to manufacture and formulate novel mRNA vaccine candidates for COVID-19;
  • INESC TEC (Portugal) is working closely with the government and regional heath authorities, while taking part in several projects, such as Chest Radiography based on AI, Smart PCR and 2nd outbreak – framework policies for improved management of medical staff. INESC TEC also conducts a study to help understanding the evolution in the lives of Portuguese people during the COVID-19 pandemic and launches a questionnaire to estimate the number of real cases;
  • IFPEN (France) donates FFP2 and surgical masks to hospitals;
  • imec (Belgium) extends its potential to the rapid and portable screening of COVID-19, developing first molecular electronics biosensor chips for infectious disease surveillance, precision medicine and DNA storage;
  • INTI (Argentina) advertises measures of the Ministry of Productive Development;
  • IPT (Brazil) is involved in several projects: detection of SARS-CoV-2, development of products to increase hygiene and decontamination, complete infrastructure for respirator repairing, encapsulation of solid chemicals for the controlled release of the chemical aiming at prolonging the sanitizing effect, UV and radioactive disinfection of textile base masks and development of low-cost confined room for transportation of patients. IPT is in charge of a specific Portuguese technological flow, aiming at providing evaluation and network, offering lab facilites and supporting R&D, connecting with other technological institutes and project monitoring and using artificial intelligence on population displacement in order to monitor the effects of quarantine. IPT also donates about 170 pieces of Tyvek, a protective clothing against chemical and biological risks to protect health professionals;
  • ITRI (Taiwan) is making a serial of public announcement of its COVID-19 technology, (such as unveiling Taiwan’s First Medical Grade Ventilator Prototype). ITRI is aiming at connecting the global innovative technology ecosystem network and link Taiwan with the world;
  • JSI (Slovenia) is involved in a number of projects, such as development of projections (COVID-19 in SloveniaProjections of COVID-19 in Sloveniacorona livecoronavirus watch), research into the properties of COVID-19, testing of respiratory devices, and collaboration in the process of manufacturing respirators. JSI is coordinating the SLING supercomputers used to calculate the dynamics of the COVID-19 proteins, identifying the drug binding sites and searching for a cure within the global Folding@Home and other international projects;
  • LEITAT (Spain), together with other EARTO members help patients to breath with 3D-printed ventilators;
  • LIST (Luxembourg) participates in the task force of the joint initiative of public research, mobilising its knowledge and human and material capacities, in order to launch a national COVID-19 platform aiming at offering combined expertise to public research sector. This task force coordinates the provision of support from the national research community to healthcare providers and the government and helps identify and centralises a variety of priority activities, leveraging on the cross-sectoral expertise in molecular biology, epidemiology, clinical trials and fundamental research. Also, through its spin-off Molecular Plasma Group, LIST together with VITO, invents a mobile device that can be used to sterilise mouth masks on location;
  • Łukasiewicz Research Network (Poland) begins the production of unique respirators, which can be connected to two patients at the same time;
  • MTC (UK) develops fast-make shield to protect front line NHS staff involved in the intubation procedure for COVID-19 patients needing linked up to ventilators;
  • NIC (Slovenia) focuses full time on the research and treatments to fight COVID-19;
  • NOFIMA (Norway) provides protective equipment (coats, masks, gloves) to the national health authorities and operates with reduced capacity, related to food production and ingredient release testing;
  • NORCE (Norway) conducts a COVID-19 study which aims to identify which diagnostic assessments the general practitioners in Bergen use for patients with respiratory infection;
  • NRC (Canada) is involved in the Pandemic Response Challenge Program, NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program and Biomanufacturing Practises Platform. NRC is also thinking of reaching out to RTOs to collate best practices and potentially set up a discussion platform and collecting pallets of urgently needed PPE from its research centres, including gloves and N95 masks to be sent to local hospitals;
  • NSTDA (Thailand) opens a call for proposal to support entrepreneurs who are interested to transfer the research and develops innovative UV germicidal robot to help disinfecting the disease by UV light. NSTDA also develops several systems: for tracking health of travellers entering Thailand, managing health products and services, enabling business operation under the health crisis and it establishes Research and Knowledge Emergency Operation Center (RKEOC);
  • REDIT (Spain), through 11 of its technology centers, is putting its resources and capabilities to the Valencian government and is working on: innovative solutions to guarantee the supply of sanitary equipment, offering technological support to face the health crisis, designing a new interchangeable filter mask and verifying the effectiveness of protective masks;
  • RISE (Sweden) is the only actor in Sweden to test and verify personal protective equipment. At the same time, RISE supports SMEs to develop their business, including product adaptation, environmental tolerance, training and conversation, finance advice. RISE also produces sanitisers and develops tools for distance learning, as well as film instructions to better use digital tools, such as Teams;
  • SIB (Switzerland) provides a range of tools and resources (such as on the SARS-CoV-2 genome on ViralZone) that can help researchers to answer important questions related to the fight against COVID-19;
  • SINTEF (Norway) supports Norwegian authorities in providing the needed equipment, including face masks, while being in dialogue with the Norwegian Hospital Procurement to provide production assistance for the critical components;
  • Tecnalia (Spain) is involved in supporting Spanish manufacturers to increase their manufacturing capacity of ventilators and, at the same time, is undertaking several initiatives to develop rapid diagnostic tests, as well as to protect material equipment, using artificial intelligence. Tecnalia is making all its technological and laboratory capacities available to collaborate with the Basque and Spanish Health Departments in the prevention, diagnosis and management, treatment and post COVID-19 crisis. Tecnalia is currently developing a pilot of the first contact tracking system that guarantees privacy to deal with the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent future outbreaks;
  • TNO (Netherlands) is deploying its innovative power, through the special “Brains4corona team” that coordinates various projects, thanks to the expertise and creativity of its experts. TNO employees have been asked to come up with project ideas, which have been submitted in two rounds. 21 projects have been selected so far, including: recycling masks, diagnostic tools for people in vital healthcare jobs and phishing detection during the corona crisis. TNO also creates a new ‘How Am I’ app to share experiences and creative solutions, while helping experts to advise national authorities;
  • Tyndall (Ireland) is in the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. Tyndall is participating in several COVID-19 Task Forces, while supporting and developing many projects, (such as early warning system for medical staff, full-face scuba mask for use in Emergency Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV), Fight Together National Platform for proximity monitoring and contact tracing, and a handheld diagnostic test platform, Smart Edu Club to provide STEAM activities for kids, Emergency response ventilator, early detection of COVID-19 Using Wearable Health Monitoring systems (EDETECT) and VS-RespiraSense – multi-parameter monitoring of COVID-19 patients);
  • TWI (UK) provides its expertise and offers its support to the NHS and to companies that are producing ventilators, face-masks and hand sanitiser and engineering support to businesses with manufacturing methods and advice on materials, welding and joining. TWI also asks for volunteers to assist in a range of engineering requirements to enable to continued delivery of frontline healthcare services;
  • Vicomtech (Spain) is applying its technologies to manage the current crisis, to explore the exit scenario and to prevent future episodes. Vicomtech is taking advantage of big data opportunities to make more accurate predictions at the individualised risk level and to link epidemiological aspects with others in the social, economic and labor fields;
  • VITO (Belgium), accredited by the Flemish Government as a reference laboratory for quality testing mouth masks, supports the healthcare sector and the relaunch of the Flemish economy. VITO, with its expertise in generating and measuring the test aerosols required for the quality standard, is developing a shortened test procedure for FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks. In addition, VITO together with LIST through their spin-off Molecular Plasma Group invent a mobile device that can be used to sterilise mouth masks on location;
  • VTT (Finland) is closely working with finish government on different projects, such as: new testing method based on detection of viral antigens, production of disinfection liquids and masks, protein development for corona vaccine, evaluation of society impact from government corona decisions.

So far, an important work has been done and will be done by RTOs thanks to their research, development and innovation efforts to support governments and industry in finding solutions against COVID-19. EARTO Secretariat encourages all its Members to send any relevant actions undertaken to fight against COVID-19.