While 2020 may have killed many businesses, it has also sparked the birth of ingenious business ideas.
The COVID-19 pandemic served as a window of opportunity for some businesses, and is a period of time that allowed them to pivot or start up something new amid these trying times.
From using 3D tech to manufacture personal protection equipment (PPE) to creating a digital health passport, here are the businesses that Covid-19 has inspired.
Manufacturing Face Shields, Swab Tests With 3D Printers
When Covid-19 hit, 3D printing firms here saw their revenue falling by at least 70 per cent as clients cut back on their marketing dollars.
Amid a global shortage of PPE, a number of them converted the majority of their 3D printing capacity and joined the ranks in producing PPE such as face shields, nose swabs and surgical mask extenders.
3D printing has helped us see for ourselves the possibilities of the technology.
Thanks to it, critical life-saving ventilators and respirators were 3D printed and supplied faster in other countries.
As a result, many companies are revisiting how products are being manufactured and some are thinking of ways to bring manufacturing back locally.
Digital Health Passport To Store Your Test Results
It will allow for travel without quarantine, provided that the traveller’s Covid-19 test results are negative.
However, these results are issued as physical documents, which can be easily tampered with, misplaced or lost.
Deep tech catalyst SGInnovate and blockchain startup Accredify partnered up to create a “Digital Health Passport” — a blockchain-based solution and mobile app — which allows users to conveniently access and store digital Covid-19 test results.
Since COVID-19 vaccinations will be available to Singaporeans soon and traveling will be a possibility soon, this passport will definitely serve an important role.
Virtual House Viewing Capability
AI-driven real estate portal MOGUL.sg harnesses artificial intelligence, locational data and geospatial technology to streamline the home buying process.
They showcased their OneMap3D Beta technology — the first-of-its-kind 3D virtual capability — at the 3D Virtual Property Expo held in October, marking a milestone for them.
The technology is currently undergoing further development before it is officially launched.
It will allow users to see what unbuilt properties will look like when they are completed.
Home buyers will enjoy immersive 3D walk-throughs of newly launched, but yet to be built condominium projects and their surrounding environments.
They will also be able to appreciate the view from any floor and walk-through the property’s neighbourhood to explore its amenities.
This could potentially transform the traditional concept of showrooms as well as minimise human contact during the pandemic.
From Cancer Detection Tests To Covid-19 Test Kits
Diagnostic test kits to detect the Covid-19 virus were in high demand and they needed to be produced fast.
Moreover, test kits were scarce amid surging global demand so it was not an option to source from other countries.
Singapore then had to lean on local companies such as MiRXES to help fill the shortfall. Establishing a local manufacturing base here in Singapore enabled it to have full control over product quality and supply.
Prior to manufacturing Covid-19 test kits, homegrown biotechnology company MiRXES specialises in producing a PCR-based molecular diagnostics product, GASTROClear, a blood test for early stomach cancer detection.
The processes involved in manufacturing, the basic detection methods, equipment and reagents used are similar to those of the Covid-19 test kit named Fortitude Kit.
MiRXES jumped in to help ramp up Singapore’s Covid-19 testing capacity to up to 40,000 a day — one of the highest testing rates in the world.
As a result, Singapore was able to conduct mass testing to curb the spread of the virus.
From Immunotherapy To Vaccine Development
Biotech startup Immunoscape specialises in high-dimensional immune profiling.
In other words, they study what T cell populations are actually doing and how they change as they respond to specific pathogens — bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.
Prior to Covid-19, 90 per cent of their work was on cancer, which is the second-leading cause of death in the world.
When it became apparent that Covid-19 is going to be a global pandemic, they took “swift actions” to apply their technology to understanding our body’s immune response to the virus.
They have since been studying how patients’ immune systems react to the coronavirus and leveraging those insights to help them understand vaccine-induced immune responses in work done with vaccine developers, including US-based Arturus Therapeutics.
In June, Arcturus Therapeutics and the Duke-NUS Medical School have been approved to proceed with the clinical trials for vaccine candidate LUNAR-COV19 by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
As a result, Singapore would own the rights to the vaccine here, while Arcturus Therapeutics would be free to market it around the world.
Positive interim results were announced and shipments are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
Hatching Asia’s First Plant-Based Whole Egg Substitute
When supermarket shelves were emptied amid bouts of panic buying, co-founder and CEO of Float Foods, Vinita Choolani, couldn’t get her hands on any eggs or milk.
She realised that food security is a “huge issue in Singapore” exacerbated by Covid-19 and felt the need to find a better way of securing our food systems.
This sparked the idea of creating a plant-based egg to meet the annual demand for 2 billion eggs in Singapore, of which 70 per cent are currently imported from Malaysia.
Called OnlyEg, it is Asia’s first commercial plant-based whole egg substitute that offers an egg yolk and egg white replacement.
It uses legumes-based substitutes for both egg yolk and egg white, and is the first of its kind to achieve the level of likeness to a real chicken egg.
Currently, the nutritional benefits of OnlyEg is being developed to be higher than that of a chicken egg.
Potentially, we could see OnlyEg available on supermarket shelves by 2022.
There Is A Silver Lining
While most businesses were badly impacted by COVID-19, the pandemic presented a business opportunity for some.
It gave birth to innovative business ideas that would not have materialised if it wasn’t for the virus.
It is true that Covid-19 exposed gaps that were already existing before and forced people to rethink their manufacturing or business processes, giving way to new solutions and ways.
There were needs before but there was less urgency to develop solutions. Thanks to Covid-19, it forced businesses to innovate and pivot.
Therefore, it is safe to say Covid-19 paved the way for possibilities that we did not know exist. Subsequently, more of such possibilities are to come as we continue to adapt to changing needs.
Featured Image Credit: Dezeen / MOGUL.sg / Accredify / MIRxes / Float Foods / CGTN.com