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GLOBALOUTLOOK TECHCITIESOFTHEFUTURE


Howtechecosystems led the chargeagainstCovid-19


ACROSS SECTORS AND INDUSTRIES, THE TECH COMMUNITY MOBILISED TO CREATE A UNITED FRONT. ANDREA HAK REPORTS


T


he Covid-19 pandemic hit the global economy with a sudden and unexpected jolt.


Governments scrambled to put strat- egies in place, companies suddenly transitioned to remote working, and people quickly adjusted as best as possible to the uncertainty of pan- demic life. Following the release of fDi’s


2020/2021 European Cities and Regions of the Future report, we spoke about howvital tech cities are to national economies. The past year has put this statement to the test, and went beyond expectations with stories of tech communities not only helping to keep national economies afloat, but also quickly pivoting to provide solutions to challenges fac- ing society at large.


Collaboratingwas key The strongest Covid-19 responses came fromcollaborations between the techcommunity, universities and governmental bodies. Tech cities that had invested inmedtech start- ups and research and development (R&D) were able to quickly develop and test newsolutions. For example, Zürich’s tech eco-


systemhas long been centred around investments in university-led R&D programmes. By providing guidance, research facilities and investment opportunities, these pro- grammes have produced several suc- cessful spin-offs. During the pan- demic, this strategy really paid off. The public research university


ETH Zürich’s spin-off HeiQ developed textiles resistant to the coronavirus. Diaxxo, another ETH spin-off, devel- oped an ultra-fast polymerase chain reaction testing device. Meanwhile, Molecular Partners—spin-off of the University of Zürich, developed a cor- onavirus vaccine candidate. Governments and large tech com-


panies also joined forces to develop much-neededmedical equipment.


36 In Barcelona, a project promoted


by the Free Trade Zone Consortium of Barcelona, Leitat technology centre and tech companiesHP, Navantia and Airbus, created the first industrially- produced field respirator prepared to support intensive care units using a 3Dprinting production process. Cross-border collaborations


within the medtech community were not just helpful, they were essential to quickly roll out solutions across the EU. GeneMe, a biotech start-up based


in Gdansk, Poland, developed and pat- ented a universal protein that allows for the production of highly accurate, rapid, molecular genetic Covid-19 tests. Their flagship test, Frankd, can becompleted on-premises in 13–25 minutes withno laboratory involve- ment. At only £10, the solution has the potential to providemuchneeded relief to businesses needing to start backuptheir operations. But to quickly bring this new


advancement to market, GeneMe needed to partner with UK-based health app, Yoti. With the app, which is now available in English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Ger- man and Polish, they have been able to roll their solution out to other countries across Europe.


Mobilising the tech community inPorto It was not justmedtech start-ups that provided much needed support. Across sectors and industries, the tech community mobilised to create a united front. Perhaps one of the most impres-


sive examples was Porto’s Tech- 4Covid19 initiative. Launched by a small group of entrepreneurs and start-ups, they were able to get more than 120 companies and 2500 people to join in finding solutions to 20 dif- ferent Covid-19 related problems the city was facing within just six days. This included making medical


appointments available online, developing a contact-tracing app, facilitating grocery deliveries and raising more than Ð100,000 to buy hospitalmaterials. Tech4Covid19 has since turned


into a nationalmovement ofmore than 5000 engineers, designers, mar- keters and health professionals, among many others.


Shortening medical supply chains in Paris With high demand for supplies and the added challenge of social distanc- ing, logistics during the pandemic was a nightmare. Many hospitals found themselves running lowon basics such as masks, hand sanitisers and surgical gowns. In Paris, Mirakl, a start-up spe-


cialising in e-commerce andmarket- place solutions, answered this call by creating a B2B platformcalled Stop- Covid19.fr. Operated free of charge and supported by the Ministry of Economics and Finance, the plat- form was amarketplace for health- care professionals to place their orders for gel,masks, gowns and other essential products directly withmanufacturers, wholesalers, subcontractors and retailers. By centralising supply and


demand in one secure platform, the city was able to shorten medical sup- ply chains and meet demand at an accelerated rate.


Easingunemploymentandsup- porting local businesses Beyond the fight against Covid-19, the pandemic caused a global eco- nomic crisis with heavy social impli- cations. Rapid surges of unemploy- ment, struggling local businesses and increasing poverty were some of the biggest challenges governments had to face. TheUNestimates that the eco-


nomic crisis caused by the pandemic could push global unemployment to


www.fDiIntelligence.com August/September 2021


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