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When reports first began filtering in of a novel coronavirus spreading rapidly in the Chinese city of Wuhan back in January, a global pandemic still seemed a long way off. Fast forward to now, COVID–19 and the race to beat it has woven its way into our daily lives.

The virus’s toll has been enormous: the worldwide fatalities now stand at over one million, and the economic impact has been severe, with the government-enforced social distancing and the lurking threat of lockdown if the virus’s rate of reproduction increases once again.

And yet, humans, for all our foibles and quirks, have a remarkable capacity to simply keep going. So many UK businesses have stepped up, pivoted, changed and forged ahead in this time of crisis.

Some of these businesses, we’re proud to call our clients. Indeed, if R&D tax credits are a sign of the innovation happening in the UK’s private sector, then we remain in a healthy place despite the current crisis.

Not only have UK businesses kept innovating, but many have also set their sights on tackling the virus and its spread. Many of ForrestBrown’s clients have been at the bleeding edge of these efforts.

ForrestBrown clients innovate to tackle the spread & impact of COVID-19

Aire LogicCOVID–19 symptom collector form

Since COVID–19 is a novel coronavirus (i.e. one not previously identified), scientists have to start from scratch. Much of the battle has been around tracking the virus’s spread and understanding its symptoms.

Our client Aire Logic, an IT consultancy specialising in the healthcare space, has partnered with the NHS Northern Care alliance to launch a free COVID–19 symptom collector form. The form will help the region’s health service plan their services.

The form takes just sixty seconds to fill in and asks that people self-report their symptoms. The data is collected by Aire Logic and then shared with the NHS Northern Trust. The information helps the trust to coordinate their resources and services and build a better picture of how COVID-19 is spreading in the region.

The data can also be used by medical research groups for an in-depth analysis, to help fight the outbreak and future outbreaks. Where applicable, reported symptoms can also be linked to peoples’ medical records.

Stablepharmapreventing the degradation of vaccines in cold transit

Based in the West Country, Stablepharma has created a new way to prevent the degradation of vaccines in cold transit.

Vaccines are temperature sensitive. Both excess heat and freezing temperatures harm vaccine potency and efficacy. This poses a real problem for large scale immunisation programmes (such as the one that will eventually be required to restrict COVID–19).

Stablepharma’s tech tackles this ‘too hot, too cold’ conundrum. Vaccines are dried from a solution of the stabilising sugar trehalose into the pores of a special sponge stored in a normal vaccination syringe. This protects the vaccine by making it less sensitive to temperature fluctuations. When it’s time to use it, you simply add water.

This tech is about more than COVID-19, of course. It can be used to get essential vaccines to people in remote locations, too. The logistics of distributing vaccines across vast geographies are multi-faceted and complex. Stablepharma’s work will simplify at least one aspect of this balance.

Read more on R&D tax credits in the pharma supply chain.

WW medical – developing a dual Air Handling Unit (AHU)

WW Medical design, develop and deliver specialist healthcare construction projects. It has worked with NHS trusts across the UK on specialist construction and HVAC challenges.

In one example, the firm designed an operating theatre that could be used for both invasive and non-invasive surgeries. This had never been achieved before since invasive and non-invasive surgery theatres have very different airflow requirements.

WW Medical’s solution was to develop a specialised dual Air Handling Unit (AHU) that could handle both situations while purging the air of any harmful particles.

During the COVID–19 pandemic, hospitals will be heavily reliant on their AHUs and HVAC systems to keep patients and staff safe. WW Medical is at the forefront of these efforts. The company has ramped up its work providing clean, safe air to hospitals and is currently undertaking projects that will use UV light to kill the virus on surfaces.

Psychopomppivoting to manufacture hand sanitizer

In the early days of lockdown, all of us became painfully acquainted with scarcity. Toilet roll, pasta, flour, chickpeas – and, of course, hand sanitizer were in short supply. All over the UK, distilleries stepped up to meet demand.

The key ingredient in hand sanitiser is ethanol (or simply alcohol), an ingredient that a gin distiller like Psychopomp is quite familiar with. With its local community struggling to access essential hand sanitiser, the distiller quickly pivoted into producing this vital resource.

The company took it a step further. Instead of selling the hand sanitiser, customers were asked to give a voluntary donation. All funds went to Bristol’s Children’s Hospital. Within the first week, it raised almost £1,000 for the hospital.

Luckily for fans of their more standard alcohol products, Psychopomp has continued to produce its award-winning gin as well.

Could your business claim R&D tax credits for COVID-19 innovation?

If you are a business that has embarked on an innovative project to tackle the spread of the coronavirus or have pivoted in the pandemic to help out, you may be able to claim R&D tax credits. Contact us today to find out. At ForrestBrown, we love to help UK businesses grow and support them in their efforts to make the world a better place.

Find out all you need to about COVID-19 funding and R&D tax credits.

This article was last updated on 6 October 2020.