Knowlegde transfer network helps in the UK rapid response in COVID-19 pandemic

4th May 2020

Rapid response

KTN has been proud to be connecting for real change and helping on several different fronts to provide support to industry and stakeholders

As the world changes in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for KTN to connect the people, communities, businesses, funders and researchers that will make a difference to our society and economy, both today and in the future.

KTN has expertise in many sectors and this knowledge and experience has been essential in making quick connections between industry, academia and government and in making cross-sectoral connections.  From visors to ventilators, sanitiser to scrubs and plastics to printed circuit boards, KTN has been making connections and triaging offers of support.  KTN’s HealthManufacturingMaterialsChemistry and Industrial Biotechnology , Digital and Transport teams have been particularly busy responding to requests for industry connections and support.  The Health Team has been responding to requests for support and connections around ventilators, PPE, diagnostics, medical technology consumables, hand sanitiser, therapeutics and vaccines.

Many industries are pivoting from their traditional functions to provide products to help in the Covid-19 response and KTN has been on hand to help bring together diverse communities to address complex challenges and to do this at speed.  The key areas we’ve been operating in are outlined below.

Ventilators

The immediate need for the production of thousands of ventilators was an early priority with Innovate UK and the government asking for input from KTN in identifying design consultancies and manufacturing companies from across all sectors that were able to respond to the Challenge quickly and potentially produce devices at scale. We’re working now to use their expertise in supporting global efforts.

PPE and hand sanitiser

KTN is working with users, business and government to provide technical expertise and connect those who can source, make or manufacture, supply and recycle to help in the drive for PPE and hand sanitiser.  A specific request was received for manufacturers of multi-ply polypropylene, our technical textiles expert from our Materials Team, was able to provide positive industry leads and a call for bottles for hand sanitiser was resolved in less than 24 hours by a cross-sector team within KTN.

Testing

KTN continue to receive a large number of enquiries related to both antigen and antibody testing. We have already made some very impactful introductions that have increased UK capacity.  On a daily basis, we are making connections between specialists and manufacturers and some of these are already working together to increase UK capacity for testing.

Vaccines

KTN is providing resource to the UK Covid-19 vaccines manufacturing response and is also a support organisation for the BIA’s Vaccines Manufacturing Taskforce. Through this work, we will translate between government, businesses and research communities, ensuring that the innovative projects necessary to deliver a vaccine are connected to the resource and network they need to succeed.

5G

KTN is a key partner in the UK5G Innovation Network that brings together the research base, technology providers, investment, regulators and industry partners to accelerate the UK’s development and take-up of 5G. Over the past two months, UK5G has been bringing together the telecommunications industry to address key communication needs i.e. emergency contact, contact in and outside of hospitals, contact between care homes etc. This work is happening now, to ensure that communication is made possible between families and carers at the most critical time in some people’s lives.

Investment and corporate matching

KTN is, on an ongoing basis, identifying investment networks and communities looking to actively support companies with solutions to Covid-19. We know that innovation and collaboration will drive the UK and global recovery from this pandemic and we also recognise that this work needs funding. We will continue to work with funders to ensure that they are connected to the projects that are most likely to make a difference.

Identifying and supporting funding calls

As well as signposting to Covid-19 funding calls from sectors ranging from Health to Space, KTN, in collaboration with our partners at Innovate UK, was instrumental in the promotion of Innovate UK’s fast-track Covid-19 competition. We reached out to businesses and projects that have the potential to change lives, encouraging them to apply and take their projects forward. The winners will be announced shortly, with projects expected to start from the beginning of June.

Planning for the future

Whilst the rapid response to immediate challenges is vital, teams at KTN have also been looking into potential issues with key sectors and supply chains.  This work is ongoing and involves many different stakeholders including Innovate UK, Catapults and relevant government departments and communities across UK and international business.

Examples of activity include:

  • Logistics – KTN’s experts in Industrial Maths, Transport and AgriFood have been working on understanding the issues associated with the Agri-Food logistics supply chain.  The team has run a survey to collect threats to the AgriFood logistics sector and will be putting those challenges to the Industrial Maths community in a webinar forum.  There is an opportunity to bring out the cutting-edge expertise in UK universities and business schools and apply them to current challenges. Further webinars are being planned to bring in geospatial and AI expertise to help solve the identified challenges.
  • AgriFood – KTN is a key part of an industry-academia group looking to address labour challenges and engage with government and funders.
  • Cyber security – KTN is working to identify threats across the cyber security sector by engaging with our key stakeholders at Innovate UK and our DCMS network.

Support

KTN has set up a Covid-19 Hub on our website which can be accessed here.  It contains regularly updated information and signposting around:

  • National Contact Points
  • Funding
  • Business support
  • Online events
  • Regulatory guidance
  • Product specifications
  • Third party initiatives and resources – this includes links to ventilators, PPE, medical technology, manufacturing, engineering, 3D printing and equipment suppliers; regional resources; and scientific research.

If you think you have solutions, resources or other ideas which can help tackle some of the effects of Covid-19, or need connecting with a specific sector, please get in touch via our dedicated email, Covid-19@ktn-uk.org, and we will direct you to the teams working on these challenges.

KTN’s events have moved online and the teams have been involved in running Covid-19 webinars to support our contacts and to assess the impact that the pandemic is having on industry sectors.  Events have included:

  • Immerse UK‘s series of webinars for companies in the Immersive Technologies sector providing 1-2-1 support and guidance.
  • The impact of Covid-19 on the Driving the Electric Revolution ISCF Challenge community.
  • An Immerse UK webinar on the legal implications of Covid-19 on commercial contracts and employment.
  • Accelerating automation and robotics in the AgriFood sector to reduce the impact of Covid-19 – a webinar to bring the community together and attended by over 80 delegates ranging from the UK’s leading fruit and vegetable producers, to technology and research providers, to people from multiple government departments.
  • AI for Services support and impact webinars.
  • A webinar on the impact of Covid-19 on your ability to innovate towards zero plastic waste.

Support and impact webinars in various sectors are continually being arranged and our events calendar can be accessed here.

KTN’s CEO, Alicia Greated, shares her response to Covid-19


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