Flanders Make deploys its top expertise to support the medical sector and the industry in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic
Driven by its social commitment and its mission to support the competitiveness of the Flemish industry, Flanders Make takes the lead in developing technological contributions to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to the necessary digital transformation of the Flemish industry. On 23 March 2020, the research centre freed up operational resources of 1 million euro, which it is currently investing in projects in which medical and protective equipment are developed and in projects focussing on technologies to further social distancing and to recognise potentially sick people. The research centre is very proud to announce that today 2 of these projects are already showing results.
Urbain Vandeurzen, Chairman of Flanders Make, explains: “Following the harrowing reports about acute shortages of vital respiratory equipment in Italy in the weekend of 21 March, we immediately took the decision with our Board of Directors to use our top engineers from Flanders Make to set up a number of urgent projects in view of avoiding such dramatic scenarios in Flanders. We immediately freed up operational resources of a 1 million euro to purchase the necessary equipment and critical components so that our project team could start immediately. A team of 15 Flanders Make engineers immediately set to work to support the VUB FabLab with the development and improvement of a ventilator and with the preparations for its potential production. Subsequently, Audi Brussels made the first 50 pre-series devices that the VUB FabLab is currently testing and optimising. We do not want our people to suffocate, neither literally, nor figuratively, and we are therefore very pleased with the support that we receive for this from companies in the manufacturing industry, such as Audi Brussels”
In parallel, Flanders Make has also invested, amongst others, in an important project supporting healthcare providers to examine the lungs of COVID patients. For doctors, listening to the lung sounds of these patients with a stethoscope is a major challenge: they need to wear sterile clothes and need to change clothes and wash their hands prior to seeing each next patient. And even with protective clothing, they are permanently at risk of becoming infected with the virus.
“Therefore, a team of top researchers from Flanders Make at UAntwerp developed in just a few weeks’ time a system consisting of digitalised stethoscopes that are attached to the patients’ body and that are all connected to a computer in a medical staff office. This allows a whole team of doctors to listen to the lungs of patients and evaluate their status. They can even compare the results over a given period and assess the progress of patients more objectively, without having direct contact with the patients. Since 15 April, a pilot test involving several intensive care beds is being performed at the Antwerp University Hospital. Thanks to this innovative system, healthcare providers across the world will be able to help their patients more effectively and in as safe a way as possible”, explains Dirk Torfs, CEO of Flanders Make.
The knowledge that is acquired in both projects is made available as open-source information to healthcare providers and technical specialists, in Flanders and in the rest of the world, who need extra ventilators or could benefit from a system for listening to the lungs of patients from a remote location.
Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister of Innovation: "Our Flemish researchers and scientists are world-class, which is proven once again during this corona crisis. The Flemish research world is working hard to provide maximum support to our health services in these times. The newly developed ventilators and digitalised stethoscopes show that there is a lot of expertise and potential at Flanders Make and our manufacturing industry".