Two weeks ago, the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, in its continued commitment to tackling our world’s greatest challenges by supporting innovation, decided that it had to act in the face of the pandemic that is ravaging the planet. They recognized that the most urgent challenge was that of coordinated action: How best could innovative projects by entrepreneurs and start-ups be recognized globally by other professionals in the field and scaled up as quickly as possible? Cue the Open COVID-19 Community, a space for designers, engineers and makers to collaborate and support each other as they use collective intelligence to find solutions to the numerous challenges the pandemic poses. We interviewed Frédéric Vacher, Innovation Director at Dassault Systèmes and Prashant Gade, CEO at Inali, a startup supported by the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, the Open Innovation Laboratory and Global Accelerator Program of Dassault Systèmes, to find out what their first impressions are about the Open COVID-19 Community.
How do you believe that innovative projects can make a difference in the face of the global crisis?
Fréderic Vacher: When faced with a global crisis, time is of the essence. Fast design and fabrication can help bridge the shortage gap while companies are mobilizing resources to launch new products that are critical to put out in the market. In such a charged atmosphere, empowering makers and startups while ensuring they receive fast but steady mentoring from experts and professionals will be key. Why? Because doing so will help them quickly bring ideas to life, moving from prototype stage to production in a heartbeat.
This is why we launched the OPEN COVID19 community: to join the dots between makers, startups, experts and professionals. We at the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab have seen how, in the past, this sort of collective energy can be mobilized to bring real change to the world. So we had to ask ourselves: why not attempt to create a space to unify the individuals confronting the greatest challenge society has faced in our lifetime? And it is already reaping results.
Prashant Gade: In India, one of the most pressing shortages hospitals are facing during the COVID-19 emergency is a lack of ventilators. The country is believed to have around 30,000 ventilators, many of which are already in use. If the pandemic worsens, we will soon fall short. Additionally, as things currently stand, ventilators are imported and cost around USD 20,000 each. Most local ones are expensive, as well. Our aim was to make each ventilator available at an affordable cost of around Rs. 15,000/- (USD 200); safe and cost effective for alternative emergency use and quickly built and deployed. Thus, accelerated and supported by the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab, we’ve created and designed the DIY Ventilator. Designed and built entirely on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud, it is a SMART ventilator that includes volume and pressure controls, alarms and numerous other features. This is an example of how, working with the platform, we are able to make a difference to the current crisis in our context.
What are your ambitions for the Open COVID-19 Community?
FV: Innovators like Prashant are exactly whom we had in mind when we launched the Open COVID-19 Community. Through it, Prashant has been able to share the DIY Ventilator with the Indian startup community and he hopes to work with 3DS mentors, designers, makers and doctors to raise awareness about what he plans to do. It is projects like his that we are exhilarated to support and are an example of how we can foster innovation. Having all the information centralized in one place saves time and effort, avoiding mistakes and repetition. Crowdsourcing and funding as many initiatives as possible from all countries is critical because, as we know by now, this pandemic is going to hit us in waves. People having the same or similar ideas can now join forces cross-country instead of working in silos. The Community is a place where people from across the world and from all walks of life a can find everything they need to work and support each other together.
What is the next step for you?
PG: Since the design process for ventilators is not locally carried out at present, acquiring them is extremely difficult with the current aviation bans in place. Hence, locally made SMART ventilators are the need of the hour. Recognizing the urgency of the same, we intend to work with doctors and hospitals to validate the functioning of the DIY ventilator. When approved, we will conduct patient trials with permission and under medical supervision. Our ventilators are designed under WHO guidelines, so we expect this process to go smoothly.
How has the Open COVID-19 Community impacted you on a personal level?
FV: Even though we opened the community over a weekend, we saw massive traction. So many people were willing to come together and make a difference. For me, the Open COVID-19 Community proves more than ever that, when individuals contribute with their own skills towards a common goal, we can harness the power of collective intelligence. I really believe that the Community can play a key role in helping healthcare professionals with immediate solutions, some of which can even be scaled globally. Personally, I’ve seen that the community never stops gathering force, with people from all continents requiring support, visibility and assistance. When the pandemic starts getting serious in regions that were heretofore relatively unscathed such as Africa or South America, these solutions will make all the difference.
PG: Personally, I have seen how the Open COVID-19 Community has brought designers, manufacturers, scientists, makers and fabbers together to share their knowledge and information to speed-up product engineering. It is my strong belief that this pandemic can and will be controlled only through collaborative approach and data intelligence.
Frédéric Vacher is Head of Innovation for Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCELab.
Prashant Gade is the Founder & CEO of Inali Assistive Tech and also heads the R&D department at Inali assistive Tech. Prashant founded Inali intending to provide affordably but advance prosthetic arms to people living in developing countries with certain upper limb amputation. Till date, Prashant’s efforts have given more than 1500 prosthetic hands in India.