Thirteen ventures – nearly half of the ventures in the Oxford Foundry start-up portfolio – are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic across four critical areas: Education; Healthcare; Inclusive Social Engagement and Mobility; and Operations, Logistics and Supply Chains. The Oxford Foundry has created a framework to actively support these ventures as they rapidly scale and implement their solutions to COVID-19-related challenges.
Through their work, these venture teams are demonstrating that entrepreneurship is a powerful and agile force for driving significant social and economic change - particularly so in a time of national and global crisis. Ventures on the Foundry’s L.E.V8 accelerator have already raised over £11m, and created more than 70 new jobs. Now, these ventures are showing that in addition to being able to innovate and pivot quickly, they are also ethical, responsible businesses, supported by a multidisciplinary community.
Ventures responding to the pandemic’s immediate Healthcare challenges include Nye Health, who have rapidly built and deployed their NHS compliant tech to enable GP surgeries and hospitals to continue consultations remotely and support increased demand. The service now has capacity to enable over 10 million patients across the UK to speak with their GP remotely, and has grown by over 1000% in just a few weeks. Nye has also been used to connect families to COVID-19 patients.
Venture Novoic, whose work is usually focused on brain disease diagnostics through sound and speech patterns, have developed a free, instant and remote test, based on audio analysis of cough patterns unique to COVID-19. The app provides potentially unlimited capacity for testing that could screen everyone in the UK on the same day.
Albus Health have developed a unique, non-contact respiratory monitoring system for COVID-19, which will help experts to understand disease progression and symptom severity, and allow them to identify those who need care before it is an emergency; Ufonia are using AI-telemedicine to help hospitals cope with the backlog of clinical visits cancelled due to COVID-19 – currently estimated to be over 700,000 cancellations across the UK. Tech venture Archangel Imaging is developing its award-winning AI cameras so that they can offer automated temperature and fever detection in workers in government, hospitals, the police force, and in commercial companies whose staff are still coming into work.
Managing critical clinical resources is fundamental right now, so by developing a stratification tool, we hope to be able to optimize resources, sending mild patients to quarantine in their homes, and ensuring that the serious ones can get the treatment and attention they deserve.
Medtech venture iLoF – who until recently were focused on the challenge of stratifying patients for Alzheimer’s clinical trials - are now developing a stratification tool for COVID-19:
In the Education field, edtech venture Smash Medicine is working with universities to roll out their unique learning platform to help medical students and doctors embed their medical education, while Scoodle has removed all charges from their tutoring platform in light of COVID-19, enabling thousands of school students to access a large resource base of knowledge for free during this time. In the higher education sector, the Appli team are setting up key partnerships with educational charities across the UK, and using their machine learning and AI platform to help university applicants from under-represented backgrounds get access to the best data and information to begin their applications.
In Operations, Logistics and Supply chains, the IoT-based venture INFOGRID are already saving the NHS over 10,000 hours a year by using technology to automate manual checks like pharmacy storage, bed occupancy or legionella monitoring across 120 sites. Now that there is an even greater need to put fewer people at risk of infection, INFOGRID’s automated remote monitoring solutions – which are being offered to NHS Trusts pro bono during the pandemic crisis - have capacity to increase the saving to the NHS from 10,000 to 70,000 hours a year, equating to 8750 daily work shifts.
The NHS and many businesses are far behind where they could be, and INFOGRID is in a strong position to help them catch up, pro bono, while they fight the pandemic.
Meanwhile, first-mile venture OXWASH is working with the NHS in several Oxford hospitals to support their vital services in these high-pressure times, and with the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial team, laundering scrubs and PPE protective gear for frontline medical workers and trial participants in line with NHS guidelines.
Our NHS frontline workers are superheroes, but even superheroes need to do laundry. By doing the laundry for the vaccine team, and by donating 2500 free service washes to frontline workers, we will be able to collect, launder, disinfect and deliver their garments and scrubs, and make things that bit easier for them as they do their incredible work under such tough circumstances.
In the crucial area of Inclusive Social Engagement and Mobility, venture team myo is now working with over 100 care homes, and is making its secure social network and communications mobile app platform available for free, so that families and vulnerable relatives can keep in touch with one another. In the past month their user base has more than doubled, and they have reconnected an additional 2000+ families to their loved ones through the myo service. They are now teaming up with Caring Homes Group (CHG) - one of the UK's largest providers in elderly care - to trial the product in its care homes across the UK.
With doors to care homes now closed to limit the further spread of COVID-19, connecting care home residents directly with their families is more vital than ever. At myo we are proud to be offering our communication app and platform service for free to all UK care providers, for as long as it takes for the crisis to stabilise, and we stand with all those on the frontlines of health and social care at this time of unprecedented human challenge.
Meanwhile, the Lanterne team has launched its Crowdless app, a free mobile service that provides real-time data on how crowded places are – particularly supermarkets and pharmacies - so that individuals can make informed choices about when and where to shop, and can socially distance more effectively.
Ana Bakshi, Director of the Oxford Foundry, stated:
“The Foundry is committed to building the next generation of strong, ethical ventures, and there is great merit in the agility and compassion that these teams have shown in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. This is a challenging time for start-ups, but their first thought has been how they can help others. The impact they have had over the last month has been phenomenal. They’ve helped address a wide variety of challenges that we’re collectively facing, and they are looking ahead to how they can help rebuild society in the future.”
Read more about the Oxford Foundry’s OXFO COVID-19 Action Plan.
See the international task force of world leaders that the Foundry has created to support the ventures.
See full details of all the ventures here.