Coronavirus could be a catalyst for change and innovation

Coronavirus could be a catalyst for change and innovation

While the world reels from the impacts of the pandemic, one expert believes now more than ever we have the opportunity to prioritise collaborative innovation that puts people before profit.

The massive impact of COVID-19 has been felt around the world and brought some industries virtually to a standstill.

Globally, airlines have grounded nearly 75% of fleets and traffic reports from some of the world’s busiest cities suggest road traffic is down by the same amount.

The effects are personal too, with new psychology studies finding that people are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression and indignation.  

It is clearly a wake-up call for individuals and nations alike, says Professor Anne-Laure Mention, director of RMIT’s Global Business Innovation platform, in a paper published this month in the Journal of Innovation Management of which she is a founding editor and co-editor in chief.

She says the coronavirus pandemic is reshaping the way we collaborate and innovate, and that in itself is not a bad thing.

“The innovation climate has historically suffered from a short-sighted willingness to pursue profits at the expense of a long-term, humanistic approach to sustainability,” she says.

“The innovation community is now seeing that in this new environment, the old way of framing innovation problems, based on business benefits alone, is no longer sufficient.”

Professor Anne-Laure Mention is the director of RMIT's Global Business Innovation Enabling Capability Platform.

Innovation has taken off at a rapid pace in response to the pandemic and Mention says we’re seeing inspiring things from this unprecedented level of global collaboration.

The academic community has been quick to join in, turning around collaborative initiatives, experiments with emerging technologies and publishing studies at a rapid pace. 

RMIT’s Health Transformation Lab has partnered with social enterprise MediStays to provide accommodation to connect patients, families and health workers in times of social isolation.

Trials are also underway for a new type of face mask, designed at RMIT and produced in collaboration with industry, that can be worn for longer durations by health workers.

“Universities, industry and governments are working together to rapidly test and roll out innovations and we’re seeing the best available evidence translated into practice within days or even hours,” Mention says.

In the health sector, online diagnostic technologies are becoming more routine as medical associations relax the status quo and provide guidance to practitioners for their use.

GM, Ford, and Tesla have joined forces and transformed some of their manufacturing capacity to assemble much needed ventilators.

Several countries have also initiated open platforms to engage world audiences through hackathons, WhatsApp groups, social media campaigns, social contact tracing technologies and online education.

COVID-19 is clearly a catalyst for change, but Mention warns that amidst such rapid advances there still lies risk.

“Controlling coronavirus and maintaining economic prosperity are intertwined, but a principled approach to innovation has the user at its kernel and is based on fairness and wellness, not profit.”

The paper, Coronavirus: a catalyst for change and innovation is co-authored by João José Pinto Ferreira from the University of Porto, Portugal, and Marko Torkkeli from the Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland.

 

Story: Grace Taylor

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