A resilient, agile approach to economic recovery

Like almost every other part of our lives, Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the technology industry. As we’ve seen since March 2020, technology has played its part in the fight against the pandemic by helping find new solutions to challenges, to inspire new and exciting applications, and to contribute to rebuilding the economy for recovery.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every person and organisation in the country, and many millions around the world. Digital Catapult’s offices closed, our staff have been working remotely and all our events have been moved online.

We are carrying on with business as usual insofar as possible, running a large programme of industry events and business support activities and contributing actively to the innovation strategies of many UK companies. We’ve also been working closely with the UK government and industry bodies to help shape digital technology led recovery and tackling challenges that have come to light because of the pandemic to help build greater resilience. This support continues.

Despite the impact of the pandemic on investment, and research and development, we are working closely with the cohorts of our flagship programmes for startups (CreativeXR, Augmentor, Future Networks Lab Accelerator, Machine Intelligence Garage, and the 5G Testbed Accelerator Programme) to encourage these small businesses to think about ways in which the applications, products and experiences they are creating can be used in a new world impacted by social distancing, remote working, lack of access to technology, and boarded up venues and working spaces.

Times like these reveal the power of collaboration and mutual support to overcome the most extreme and unexpected challenges. We’re committed to supporting national initiatives in response to the outbreak, using in-house expertise and our ecosystem connections to assist these efforts and more.

We are encouraged to see such an overwhelming response from startups, large businesses and individuals in the UK, working together and innovating to help save lives, banding together to help the most vulnerable and doing what they can to keep businesses afloat.

Some things may have changed for good but, as we start to look beyond the immediate crisis, we hope that we can retain some of the positive elements that have emerged from these extraordinary challenges.

We will eventually return to a new normal with a focus on supporting UK economic recovery, developing a new resilience and finding new ways to reduce carbon emissions in the longer term. Hopefully we will retain some of the best aspects of recent technology adoption and create new agile ways of adapting and operating as the economy is restored to growth.

600 +

startups attended Digital Catapult’s two investment webinars around the Future Fund

15000 +

unique users per day of Covid-19 immersive training content for healthcare workers

Mixed reality training for healthcare workers

Digital Catapult worked with a consortium of digital creators, including Dimension, Microsoft, VISR, Fracture, Make Real, University of Leeds, and UCL, under the supervision of Health Education England (HEE) to create mixed reality training resources for healthcare workers in response to Covid-19.

Within a few weeks the consortium developed and deployed interventions to meet these needs including 2D videos, volumetric holographic videos, resources and a platform for global distribution of the content. The immersive training content is curated by HEE and distributed through its channels where it is available for open access to all 1.3 million users of the e-LfH system. The training is being used by many thousands of trainees, with more than 15,000 unique logins per day since the start of the crisis.

A planned Phase 2 of this project will aim to fill additional training needs for employers while also contributing to the overall body of research on the use, efficacy and user experience of the technology in crisis management.

Partners include a chain of restaurants, care homes and a national retail chain who will use the training resources and act as subject matter experts on the content development for industry.

Workplace social distancing using IoT

We joined an international group of companies, funded by EIT Digital’s Covid-19 response fund, to test a wearable token that provides accurate information needed to maintain social distancing requirements.

Working together with Reply Italy, the University of Trento and Fondazione Bruno Kessler, this device will help workers maintain social distancing, and has the potential to help with ‘track and trace’, while being GDPR compliant. It has several advantages over existing solutions including its low power consumption, cost efficient design, centimetre level precision and that it does not manage personal data, only anonymised data streams. Plans are in place to rapidly test and deploy.

Times like these reveal the power of collaboration and mutual support to overcome the most extreme and unexpected challenges.

Jeremy Silver