In response to the Covid-19 crisis, CW Applied Technology designed and manufactured its Portable Room UV-C Steriliser on site in Shannon, Co Clare. In the five years the company has been in business it’s the first product it has manufactured and sold itself; its usual remit is to design and manufacture for other people.
The device has proved popular with hoteliers and in nursing homes. In response to feedback, a few changes have been made to the original design.
Said John O’Connell, managing director, CW Applied Technology: “We found that if the product was raised about six inches higher than it originally was, it would get over the edge of the bed and open up more space for flooding the room with UV-C light. We’ve made that adjustment now. We've also made it more usable in the sense that it can be wheeled without disassembly from one room to the next.
“Now you just put it together, set it up, run it, then wheel it into the next room and repeat the process. Those are small things, but they’re actually very important things, particularly in a hotel, where time is important [for] releasing rooms for the next customer.”
There are more plans to add more tech to the device but, given the circumstances businesses are currently facing to survive, CW was aiming for a product with a lower price point than others on the market.
“They needed something that worked and was quick and easy to deploy and didn’t need all the bells and whistles at this point. We’ll develop it more and add certain features, but that’ll raise costs and we are conscious of that.”
Another thing that has really appealed is the fact that the device is effective without the overuse of harmful chemicals.
“No virus has been found yet that is immune to UV, and it’s all down to the length of time you expose the virus or bacteria to the UV-C light,” said O’Connell. “We didn't want to have a situation where we were solving a problem, but potentially creating another one – we didn't want to be spraying chemicals or adding more chemical disinfectants to the environment.
Once it has been sterilised, the room or office is reusable immediately. There are no potential side effects for people with skin conditions, underlying health conditions or allergies as there is no residual effect. Also, there is no long-term damage to carpets, curtains or furniture – chemicals and detergents could potentially damage these over time – something hoteliers Michael Vaughan of Vaughan Lodge and Mary Fennin-Byrne of Clanard Court both said encouraged them to buy the product.
The electrical manufacturing company have remained busy over the recent difficult period with the B2B side of the operation. “We are working on a project around solar lighting for a US company and also a project to help those suffering from Parkinson’s. Freeze of gait is a problem for people with the disease and we're working on developing a product that could help them to unfreeze, if you like, in those situations.”
The Medtech industry had to react quickly in response to Covid-19. In some areas this opened up opportunities where, ordinarily, red tape might have slowed down innovation. This is something the boss of CW relished, and hopes will continue.
“I think the industry has reacted very well, we’ve made a lot of progress in a very short period of time. Crisis is always good for innovation and I think the industry has reacted quite well to that and there’s a lot more to be done, I would hope that it won’t cease now just because maybe the virus is declining a little.
“There are certainly big lessons to be learned from the level of innovation that we've been able to achieve. That should not be dismissed as just something which happens in a crisis. We should be open to that possibility – that it can happen all the time. Not just in Ireland, [but] in a lot of western countries as well, we tend to be followers instead of leaders when it comes to supporting start-ups or supporting innovation and I think that applied pretty much in this case, as well. There is talk about doing some back-dating of financial supports for innovation work that began in February or March. If that happens, that’s great I hope it does happen, for everyone, not just for me.”
Supporting start-ups and innovation is a passion for O’Connell. Every month, CW hosts an ideation session on site in Shannon where budding entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas and get support from 12 different voices within their industry. “The general feeling is that in two hours, you get the benefit of about 18 months. [The entrepreneurs] also develop a network, because all of these people that come in to help are keen to continue to help afterwards.”