The unprecedented health, economic and social crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has helped focus research, business and technological efforts on the fight against it or the mitigation of its social consequences, on a national and global scale.
In this context, technologically innovative start-ups funded by EquiFund have used their know-how either to help deal with the pandemic or to support society in withstanding the consequences of the pandemic and the specific circumstances which have come about. Examples include the following:
Causaly has developed artificial intelligence and has the capability to immediately process medical publications and to rapidly identify medicines containing substances that can help fight COVID-19. It has also mapped all public knowledge about the virus so that it can be used by researchers.
The contribution made by Purposeful could be described as complementary. This biotechnology company is examining the possibility of repurposing existing medicines for the treatment of COVID-19. It has already drawn up a list of 42 promising drugs and is currently in the process of exploring possible funding for the in vitro assessment of their potential by Democritus University.
In medical research the contribution made by Bioemtech is also important: it is attempting to accelerate monitoring methods by creating accessible real-time visualisation systems for experiments carried out on laboratory mice used in COVID-19 research.
Enzyquest, which produces enzymes for molecular and biotechnological use, is developing a molecular diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 that will be produced in Greece and is at the same time working on an alternative rapid molecular test. The Enzyquest team is working hard to ensure that the country has a large supply of tests for the coming period in view of the tourist season and a potential second wave of the disease.
At a different level of crisis management, namely in terms of human and social resources, Novoville, which specialises in technological solutions for local government, has developed an app for British local authorities that directly identifies those who have volunteered to make a contribution to the effort. The system identifies volunteers by category and connects them with the relevant social services.
Blueground, a high-tech leasing and rental company, has provided 100 furnished apartments in 12 different parts of the world to healthcare workers moving in order to help fight COVID-19.
The company TENDERTEC decided to contribute in a different way, by developing systems for remote monitoring of the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Bearing in mind that lockdown makes it difficult for people to take care of others and for carers and nurses to move around, TENDERTEC’s system based on thermal cameras and artificial intelligence helps to identify cases where immediate assistance is required, avoiding unnecessary trips and limiting the transmissibility of the virus. The TENDERTEC team is also developing a system that will help to remotely identify the warning signs of possible COVID-19 infections.
Advantis, which provides medical imaging services using cloud technology, is using its platform to provide assistance for medical examinations that have a lower priority due to the pandemic crisis. Advantis has also organised medical webinars with over 160 participants from 54 countries. Medical examinations via the platform are expected to play an important role as medical organisations return to normal operation.
It is clear that the COVID-19 crisis has created huge demand for antiseptics in various forms (wipes, gel, etc.). YOUTHLAB has developed a series of such products which also protect the skin.
There were also cases where pre-existing technology services have proven to be particularly useful in the circumstances arising from quarantine. One such case is the InstaShop application which provides online grocery shopping services in other countries. The company experienced a dramatic increase in turnover after the crisis began.
Another retail app is bespot, which added information on estimated and actual traffic in cooperating supermarket stores and information on the queue waiting to enter them, allowing users to avoid queues and overcrowding.
The funds within EquiFund have made a significant contribution thanks to their know-how and their ongoing provision of advisory support in all areas that were instrumental in the development of these successful projects.
The EquiFund investment platform receives EUR 200 million in funding from the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ (EPANEK - European Regional Development Fund and national resources), EUR 60 million from the European Investment Fund (EIF), EUR 40 million from the European Investment Bank - resources from the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI - Juncker Plan) and institutional and private investors. By leveraging additional funds from institutional and private investors, the initiative now has EUR 450 million in available resources.
The important action and impressive responses of Greek start-ups to the pandemic crisis, using biotechnology, artificial intelligence and other forms of technology, and above all making the most of the human resources and collective intelligence of the teams that form these companies, highlight the key role of investment in innovation and the importance and usefulness of cofinanced programmes that offer new ways for our country’s economy and society to face unprecedented crises.