Two weeks ago, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US scientist tackling the Covid-19 outbreak, had said: “Showstopper to halt the global coronavirus disruption will only be an effective vaccine.” Like Fauci, many scientists, innovators, and startups from across the world believe that only innovation can break the chain of the pandemic and the economic depression as well.
Although, since the time of the “Copernican revolution”, resource-rich countries from Europe and the US have been taking the lead in the area of innovation, the stories of innovation in India, a country which has limited resources, is encouraging. From homegrown Covid-19 test kits to indigenously built ventilators and from prototypes of isolation wards to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), innovation is among the many arsenals that India is using to win the battle against the deadly spread of coronavirus. The Covid-19 crisis has compelled countrymen to think about innovation, and early news in this direction came at the end of last month when Pune-based MyLab Discovery Solutions announced that it has got the clearance for indigenously manufacturing Covid-19 test kits. The company claimed that the kit manufactured by them will reduce the country’s import dependence for test kits and enable low-cost, real-time testing. Deepak Kumar, official spokesperson of MyLab Discovery Solutions, told The Sunday Guardian: “We have already supplied the first batch of MyLab Covid-19 Qualitative PCR kits that screen and detect the infection within 2.5 hours, compared to more than seven hours taken by existing protocols.”
Similarly, when scarcity of ventilators became the talking point across the world as Covid-19 infected patients need to have support of this life system which provides an imitating flow of natural breath, Aerobiosys Innovations, an incubated startup of Center for Healthcare Entrepreneurship (CfHE) of the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-Hyderabad), came up with a solution.
Aerobiosys Innovations made a low-cost, portable emergency use ventilator called “Jeevan Lite” which has the potential to equip the country to deal with the scarcity of ventilators in hospitals across the country.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) enabled Jeevan Lite to provide a low cost (Rs 1 Lakh approximately) option of the ventilator. Jeevan Lite can be operated through an application,” an Aerobiosys Innovations statement reads.
Later, the ventilator innovation bandwagon was joined by IIT Roorkee which also developed a low-cost portable ventilator called “Prana-Vayu”. While both startups from the IIT-Hyderabad and IIT-Roorkee are waiting for the certification clearance from the authorities concerned and the clearance will decide the course of the production, another reputed institution—the Indian Institute of Science (IISc)—is ready to produce ventilators from the end of this month.
The early production of ventilators by the IISc is possible due to its innovative management of components. Scientists involved in the project are working round the clock to ensure the timely production of the ventilators. T.V. Prabhakar, Principal Research Scientist at the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering (DESE), is leading the project.
As per a rough estimate, the country has around 56,000 ventilators and in case of mass spread of the virus, this number will fail to save lives.
IIT-Roorkee has also produced a low-cost face shield which will help doctors fight the Covid-19. The lack of PPE has become an unaffordable crisis that the frontline worriers (doctors, nurses, and hospital workers) from across the world are facing and the shield may lessen the burden in this regard. “IIT-Roorkee’s Tinkering Lab’s protection shield provides protection from Covid-19. The easy replacement of the transparent sheet is an added advantage of this shield. The 3D printed reusable frame of the shield is not bound to the transparent sheet. At present, the manufacturing cost per shield is Rs 45, but with mass level production, the cost will be even lesser,” a statement said.
In the quest for innovation, IIT-Bombay has also come forward to help the country in its fight with Covid-19, with a device that helps in sanitising currency notes and gadgets. Scientists at IIT-Bombay have made a portable UltraViolet Sanitiser device that can disinfect currency notes, gadgets and similar other items.
According to IIT-Bombay, so far, the team of scientists who have designed the device, has only conducted trials inside the laboratory. Final production may take time.
The Central government has launched several campaigns on its portal to promote innovation. The portal describes that “Innovate India” is a unique platform to display, promote and recognise innovations happening across the nation. It has been launched in collaboration with AIM-NITI Aayog and MyGov. Citizens from all parts of the country are eligible to share innovation on the platform. “To involve the community in the fight against the virus, we would want you to share your solutions to help fight #Coronavirus. Submitted solutions will be evaluated for adoption and those selected will be suitably rewarded,” the portal reads. There are hundreds of innovations that have caught the attention of the Central government and each proposal is being looked into carefully.