"Extraordinary situations require extraordinary measures" - according to this saying, the Institute of Innovation and Industrial Management acted in times of the Covid-19 crisis. Prof. Christian Ramsauer and John Heugle (former CEO of ams AG) launched a call to Austrian companies with the aim to help medical staffquickly and non-bureaucratically.
Due to the rapidly increasing number of Covid-19 patients in March, it was already foreseeable that medical protective equipment would not be available in sufficient quantities (e.g. FFP2/FFP3 safety masks, overalls and face shields). In cooperation with KAGes (Steiermärkische Krankenanstaltengesellschaft m.b.H.), Prim. Dr. med. Klaus Vander (expert for hospital hygiene) and the head of the intensive care unit of Anaesthesiology at the LKH Graz, Prof. DDr. Metznitz, the IIM COVID-19 face shield was developed. Furthermore, urgently needed protective clothing was handed over directly to the KAGes by industrial partners such as ams AG and AT&S.
Driven by the initial success and IIM contacts in Vienna, the Federal Ministry of Digitalization and Economic Affairs became aware of the initiative. On April 3rd, Federal Minister Margarete Schramböck officially announced the Covid-19 Task Force Industry, headed by Prof. Dr. Christian Ramsauer and John Heugle. In a first virtual kick-off meeting, executives from 15 well-known Austrian industrial companies (including e.g. ams AG; Payer Medical, Saubermacher, Fronius, Siemens, Magna, Hirtenberger AG and many more) participated.
In order to provide the best possible support to national decision-makers, following focal points, among others, were established in the Task Force: (1) International purchasing of medical protective equipment in close cooperation with the Austrian Red Cross, (2) purchasing of respirators and correspondingly required accessories, (3) reprocessing processes for medical protective clothing, (4) production of disinfectants, (5) production of face shields, and (6) development and production of (emergency) respirators.
The participating companies were able to contribute their expertise in all key areas. For example, the company Payer Medical and the IIM Institute developed the IIM COVID-19 protective shield to a certified product ready for series production (series production has started at Payer Medical). A consortium consisting of Saubermacher AG, Ortner Reinraumtechnik, Christof Industries and VTU submitted an FFG application (Emergency-Call COVID-19) for the development of a disinfection system for medical protective clothing (including associated logistics processes) - the project was approved by FFG. The Styrian company Hage Sondermaschinenbau, together with medical experts from the Medical University of Graz, succeeded in developing an emergency respirator.
The positive development of the number of cases has by no means brought the activities of the Covid-19 Task Force Industry to a standstill. A continuing need for cooperation between industry and the Austrian Federal Government was also confirmed by Federal Minister Margarete Schramböck during her visit to the IIM Institute in April 2020.