Oxford Foundry backs four new COVID-19 recovery innovations
The Oxford Foundry today announces the four new innovative solutions it will support on the OXFO COVID-19 Rapid Solutions Builder. The four critical solutions were chosen by a team of international judges from more than 100 entries after a rigorous selection process – based on their ability to have a real, tangible societal impact, their viability and ability to implement and their potential for rapid growth.
Among the judges are Oxford Foundry Advisors including Mohamed Amersi, chairman of the Amersi Foundation; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter; Brent Hoberman CBE, executive chairman, Founders Factory, Founders forum; Arumna Oteh, former vice president & treasurer at the World Bank; David Buttress, founder of Just Eat UK; Angela Ahrendts DBE, former SVP Apple Retail & CEO of Burberry and Sir Terence Stephenson, chair of the Health Research Authority (HRA). The full list of judges, who came together in just a couple of weeks to give their generous support can be found here.
The four winning solutions are:
Healthcare stream. My110: A saliva-test for COVID-19, which is easier and non-invasive compared with other means of testing. My110 went through Entrepreneur First and the team has deep diagnostics development knowledge, protein chemistry and nanomedicine expertise. They hope to unlock the potential for more widespread daily screening through a rapidly scalable, reliable, low-cost screening tool, which can be taken at home and combined with tracking software to ensure the accuracy of each test result. Diagnostics have been undervalued but immunoassay testing is now estimated to be a $18bn market. The team has a proof of concept and is working with leading industry partners.
Education stream. Devie: an AI-powered coaching app to support parents of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. The personalised platform helps parents actively to engage in their child’s development, address parenting challenges and improve well-being. Devie is currently being used by 550 parents and has had very positive feedback from its 100 strong user-group. Devie targets the new generation of parents, who regularly use apps and technology for self-support. With the closure of nurseries due to COVID-19, Devie provides a lifeline of support for parents and can help maintain best practice and stability for early childhood development.
Inclusive social engagement and mobility stream: Oblivious AI is building tools to enable AI to respect the security and privacy of sensitive data, transforming how data is processed by both governments and industry. Oblivious AI is currently working in different states in India to contact-trace COVID-19 in hundreds of thousands of citizens while maintaining their privacy. They are in talks with other international governments about COVID-19 contact-tracing and are working with industry partners including Amazon Web Services, Oracle and Strategic Blue.
With the closure of nurseries due to COVID-19, Devie provides a lifeline of support for parents and can help maintain best practice and stability for early childhood development
Operations, Logistics and Supply chains stream. Crowdless: an app which shows the extent of crowds in supermarkets and shops, to help people avoid crowds and queues and be empowered to make decisions. Since launching on the App Store, the team has received thousands of sign-ups a day and has been featured on the BBC and in the Guardian and the international press. Crowdless is also one of the 13 ventures the Foundry has been supporting rapidly to scale, following winning best postgraduate idea as Lanterne in the Foundry’s All-Innovate competition last year.
My110 and Crowdless have both been awarded Innovate UK funding aimed at fast-tracking the development of innovations borne out of the Coronavirus crisis.
Ana Bakshi, director of the Foundry, says, ‘Universities are homes of innovation that provide critical sources of income, impact and job creation for government and the economy. With the onset of the pandemic, it was vital that we mobilised our networks and leveraged our community as quickly as possible, this included repurposing nearly 100% of the team’s time to the COVID-19 action plan.
‘The ventures we support are having an impact in hospitals, care homes, schools and other sectors. Cutting-edge innovation will be at the forefront of economic and societal recovery and resilience, so we must build and invest in solutions that respond to the secondary and tertiary challenges of the pandemic as quickly and sustainably as possible.’
Mohamed Amersi, chairman of the Amersi Foundation, says, ‘Finding and building at speed and scale, reliable ways to test and treat populations across the world for COVID-19 is of the utmost priority. Going forward, there are many other challenges for which we need to find scalable solutions, including access to affordable healthcare. Oxford University has shown it has world class talent and innovation and some of the ventures that the Oxford Foundry work with have enormous potential to make a positive difference to our pandemic recovery.’
Oxford University has shown it has world class talent and innovation and some of the ventures that the Oxford Foundry work with have enormous potential to make a positive difference to our pandemic recovery
Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter, Medium, Jelly, says, ‘It’s important that, following the pandemic, we continue to put people first; to be as human as possible and put people at the heart of solutions and how we respond to the pandemic. This is particularly important with new technologies: they need to be inclusive and human-centric right from the start. Oxford has real success in the tech innovation space and these new solutions are no exception.’
Terence Stephenson, Chair of the Health Research Authority (HRA), says, ‘There has never been a more important time to work together to address the challenges we face in healthcare. Not just the immediate needs of diagnosis and treatment, but the longer term needs of how to improve efficiencies, build resilience and manage demand. Government, research, business, entrepreneurship and the public and private sectors need to come together to plan and implement solutions now rather than later.’
Alexsis de Raadt St. James, Founder and Managing Partner of Merian Ventures, says, ‘The world faces a myriad of challenges to address the pandemic of today and the uncertain world of tomorrow. But I know that these entrepreneurs and the global network supporting them, will be fundamental to developing the solutions that will allow us to build a better future.’
The world faces a myriad of challenges to address the pandemic of today and the uncertain world of tomorrow. But…these entrepreneurs …will be fundamental to developing the solutions that will allow us to build a better future
The four solutions will each receive a £10,000 grant and a two-month programme of support, including masterclasses, tailored expertise from a global network of more than 60 experts and advisors, introductions to key partners and stakeholders in industry and government, access to capital and investment, advice in legal, finance, tech, operations, sector specific support and access to vital talent and resources.
In just seven weeks, the Foundry has developed and implemented the OXFO COVID-19 Action Plan, rapidly scaling 13 ventures – nearly half its portfolio – which are responding to the pandemic. It has launched a new pandemic recovery start-up programme – the Rapid Solutions Builder – which is focused on identifying four high-potential solutions responding to secondary and tertiary problems generated by the pandemic, and has brought together 180 volunteers, an international taskforce of world-leading experts and a startup runway grant fund of £100,000+, to support ventures.