As we all work to make it through what could be called one of the most troubling periods in modern history, there are extraordinary people who walk among us that already are meeting these new challenges head-on.
RESPONDING TO A CALL FOR ACTION
Members of the Arizona Technology Council and other companies, startups, organizations and institutions are rising to the occasion, some even reinventing themselves to meet the needs of others struggling to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. From taking on the challenges of rapid coronavirus testing to helping determine lessons learned for the future, they are offering a spectrum of services without regard to profit or competition.
ARIZONA ORGANIZATIONS DOING EXTRAORDINARY THINGS
Phoenix-based Prorenata and Tucson-based Paradigm are producing novel coronavirus testing kits that can offer results in 24 hours. Together, the two labs were processing 700 tests daily in late March but expect that number to reach 8,000 a day by the end of April.
Over in Tempe, The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has been gearing up robots for simultaneous coronavirus testing of large volumes of samples as they also work to open a drive-thru testing site. ASU also is a using a $2 million emergency grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to support the university’s efforts in testing health care professionals and other critical workers, producing swab test kits for health care providers and manufacturing needed personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) began working in early March with federal, state, county and tribal governments, private healthcare providers and others to expand testing for COVID-19 in Arizona. The Phoenix-based research organization also is using advanced biomedical technologies to study the disease while also helping establish a statewide tracking network for COVID-19.
PADT, a globally recognized provider of simulation, product development and 3D printing products and services, also is responding to the call for help. The team of innovators in Tempe is focused on the design and build of a promising ventilator for The University of Arizona Medical Center. In addition, it is engaged in several other projects to assist with meeting the need for PPE and solutions for medical devices in short supply.
SWITCHING GEARS INTO NEW TERRITORIES
Some companies are venturing into new territories to help. Universal Avionics is offering its manufacturing expertise and facility space to establish a Tucson branch of HOPE to produce face masks and shields in an assembly line. Honeywell’s Phoenix Engines campus will become a production site for N95 face masks and other PPE by hiring 500 new workers to help meet demand.
To assist in the fight against coronavirus, ON Semiconductor is donating 10,000 face masks. Intel is donating more than 1 million masks, gloves and other PPE to health care workers.
Another need that has arisen with the recommendation to keep hands clean is hand sanitizer. Chandler-based ANALYZE, a specialty chemical product manufacturer, and VB Cosmetics, developer of clean cosmetics, are switching gears to produce the sanitizer. Starting with production to fill 4-ounce bottles, their plan is to move to 300-gallon batches and packaging in 1-gallon plastic bottles as the supply of ethanol and isopropyl alcohol grows.
KEEPING AMERICANS CONNECTED
But there are many other needs beyond equipment and supplies. Arizona utilities including Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project and Tucson Electric Power have stepped up to sign the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which includes a commitment to waive late fees and not terminate residential or small business service due to financial circumstances related to COVID-19. Chandler-based technology firm company MST Solutions LLC is purchasing and dropping off needed items for seniors in the community.
One of the most amazing demonstrations of charity on another front is seen in businesses stepping up to help other businesses—some might even consider them competitors—stay afloat. Acronis SCS, a Scottsdale-based leader in cybersecurity, is offering its enterprise-grade file sync and share solution free to all service providers at no charge to support remote workers through July.
For manufacturers now faced with retooling or other related methods in order to stay in business, automation integrator Delta Technology of Tempe is offering help. At no cost, it is offering its experts to advise on how to perform a rapid changeover.
Spreading the word that a company is still open is a must right now. That’s where Phoenix-based Digital Canvas, which helps businesses grow, comes in. It is helping local, small businesses with a free directory and promotion platform.
Even when a company still can operate, living in a virtual world is not an option. Employees still may need to fly to a meeting or conference. To help reduce the uncertainty and anxiety of taking a flight, #FLY has rolled out the Coronavirus Travel Map, which identifies flights at risk of COVID-19 and the safest routes to travel.
For others, cash is the critical piece of the puzzle to keep operating. That’s why marketing consulting firm LeadMD of Scottdale is collaborating with Invest Southwest to launch a new fund to help those small businesses caught in the effects of this crisis.
When the word came out that technology jobs were disappearing, a new idea hit Greg Head, the creator of the Gregslist website that originally launched as a personally curated list of Arizona software companies. He now offers #SaaSTalentNow to give displaced tech workers from software-as-a-service companies a platform to find jobs.
Surprise-based Promineo Tech is thinking ahead to keep the tech talent pipeline active. Known for its coding bootcamp, the company is offering three full-ride scholarships for its online software developer programs.
With so much going on, there also is so much to learn from a pandemic. By coincidence, the Pandemic Response Planning Subgroup that is part of The University of Arizona’s Critical Incident Response Team has worked closely with local, regional and national agencies to identify measures that should be taken during a pandemic influenza outbreak.
As you can see, while other states may be struggling with what to do in this pandemic, many Arizona tech companies and organizations already have rolled up their sleeves and are taking action. But this is no surprise to those who know that innovation and compassion are traits of Arizona’s technology community.
Steven G. Zylstra, Sc.D. (hon.)
President + CEO
Arizona Technology Council