25 Organisations innovating during COVID-19

As part of our response to the pandemic, IAWM have been tracking the various examples of innovation the West Midlands. The following examples show organisations who have pivoted and adapted during the crisis, altering their services, responding to calls for action, and creating innovative solutions to solve challenges.

These organisations are truly testament to our innovative region, and we incredibly proud to be able to share them. If you or a business you know has adapted during the crisis, or responded to challenges, send us your examples to iawmcomms@gmail.com and we will add you to the list!

Acti-Fit diversifies into organising healthy breakfast clubs and online courses

A community coaching business is diversifying into organising healthy breakfast clubs and family-friendly online educational courses as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Acti-Fit was launched last April by Ellis Bailey and former Worcester Warriors and Birmingham & Solihull RFC player Alex White to provide physically active learning sessions.

When Covid-19 struck forcing the cancellation of their expert sessions and nutrition-packed breakfast clubs, Ellis and Alex decided to hold free educational programmes for parents and children on Facebook – and the result was over 100,000 views with families tuning in from as far away as New Zealand and America.

Criminologist trade prison for pizza to support army of new home cooks

A criminology professor has launched a new website to support those cooking on a budget during the coronavirus lockdown.

Professor Elizabeth Yardley, who teaches at Birmingham City University’s School of Social Sciences, is swapping crime and restraining orders for cottage pie and risotto with her ‘Pound Chef’ recipes – all executed for less than £1 per person.

Read more here.

Coventry University delivers mindfulness sessions to NHS frontline staff

Coventry University is delivering mindfulness and compassion sessions to NHS staff who are working in frontline roles to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

The first session was held on Monday 6 April for paramedics and nurses who are undertaking the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care course, a top-up degree course designed for qualified clinicians. The session focused on showing participants how to calm the nervous system through meditation and breathing exercises.

Read more here.

Researchers create AI tool to speed up Covid-19 diagnosis through x-rays

A new healthcare tool that applies artificial intelligence technology to improve the accuracy of COVID-19 detection in chest x-rays has been developed and shared by Birmingham City University researchers.

DeTraC, created by computer vision and data scientists Professor Mohamed Gaber and Dr Mohammed Abdelsamea, uses machine learning to assess and diagnose using large datasets of images from several hospitals across the world.

Read more here.

University equipment supports fight against COVID-19

The University of Wolverhampton has provided a vital piece of equipment to support the national effort in the fight against COVID-19.

Universities, research institutes and companies across Britain are lending
their testing equipment to three new hub laboratories which are being set up for the duration of the crisis. NHS staff will be
first in line for the new coronavirus (COVD- 19) testing programme being developed in collaboration with government and industry.

Read a full report here.

UniSalad: The student community app adapted for post-covid uni life

Student community and marketplace app UniSalad has proven its need in light of COVID-19, to address the growing demand for more student community-feel at university. With universities being forced to close, putting a premature end to the academic year, student life came to a halt and student mental health has deteriorated. The app’s offer to bring student community online aims to re-boost wellbeing at university despite social distancing measures.

Read more here.

Worcestershire Barber develops clever queueing app

Barbers, beauty salons and hair dressers are some of the worst Coronavirus-affected businesses. But one Worcester barber has developed a neat answer: MyQsafe, a virtual queuing system.

Ellis Campbell began work on the app as soon as his barber shop on Broad Street in the city got closed down on March 23.

The app has been designed for any business offering a walk-in service.

Read more here.

Worcestershire invention helps keep construction workers safe workers safe from COVID-19

A new social-distancing technology invented in Worcestershire is helping construction workers stay safe.

Plinx, developed by Wearable-Link, is a proximity sensor which alerts workers when they are too close to each other, allowing essential construction work to continue safely across the UK.

Read more here.

Over £160 million grant support processed for local businesses

As part of its rapid response to support the city’s economy through the considerable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Birmingham City Council has successfully implemented a bespoke solution to enable eligible small local businesses to claim financial support to help protect them from insolvency. 

Birmingham City Council received government funding of over £231m to deliver financial support to approximately 19,000 eligible small businesses impacted by COVID-19 across the city. On 2 April a project team was mobilised to develop and implement a solution for two business grant schemes, using several data sources, and a range of both technical and manual processes.  

Read more here.

Medilink West Midlands connects industry and the NHS to produce surgical gowns

Medilink West Midlands has been busy sourcing local manufacturers to produce high-quality surgical gowns for the regions NHS trusts. With work now underway, the region will benefit from up to 25,000 extra surgical gowns being produced a week.

Read more here.

Whiteley Brooks working with McLaren Racing on Ventilator Challenge UK project

Coventry-based Whiteley Brooks has been working with one of the world’s most iconic motorsport companies as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK Project.

Whiteley Brooks Engineering in Brandon Road, Binley, which was established in 1965, usually supplies high-quality precision engineering parts for motor sport, medical, automotive, defence, diesel testing and new technologies sectors.

Its high-profile within the industry led to McLaren Racing asking the business to work alongside them on the programme to provide ventilators for the NHS during Covid-19 – on the same day the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub asked them to get involved.

Read more here.


An innovative automotive engineering firm in Coventry will more than double its workforce if its design to manufacture face masks for frontline NHS staff is given the go ahead.

MarchantCain, based at Banner Park in Wickmans Drive, has submitted its plans to the official testers, the British Standards Institution (BSI), in Milton Keynes to ensure their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) meets stringent standards.

The designers at MarchantCain have developed a face mask and have produced 3D printed jigs and fixtures to help assemble between 10,000 and 80,000 masks a week.

Read more here.

Kite Packaging

A Coventry company has taken just a week to devise, design and supply a new protective face visor for the NHS – with 10,000 units dispatched within seven days.

Kite Packaging used its team of 12 engineers to design concepts for the visor and a prototype was tested locally by medics last weekend to allow production to start as soon as possible.

Read more here.

Free wellbeing package during COVID-19

Kaido has created an employee wellbeing package designed to help you keep your team healthy, connected and motivated through this period. It is FREE for companies of under 500 employees.

Read more here.

Virtual antenatal classes support parents during lockdown

Soon-to-be parents in Birmingham are now taking part in virtual antenatal classes as part of social distancing.

Birmingham Women’s and Children’s have embraced technology to continue to support expectant mums and dads by offering the classes – which usually take place at Birmingham Women’s Hospital – online via video link.

Read more here.

Women’s Aid launches secure webchat service

Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid, a specialist domestic abuse support charity, have launched a free anonymous, secure online webchat facility.

The charity has been receiving huge volumes of calls since lockdown measures were put in place in the UK, and say that domestic abuse is exacerbated by lockdown, and women and their children will suffer unless more is done to protect and support them. The charity provides specialist support for women and children through their helpline, drop in centre, and Housing Options Hub. The team also support women in legal proceedings, and healthcare settings.

Now their support has extended to an online support service, to enable women during lockdown and beyond, to be listened to.

Read more here.

My Internal World

My Internal World offers tools and strategies for emotional health developed by expert coaches. Their unique emotional wellbeing assessment will provide you with detailed personal insights, along with guidance and support in figuring out your next steps.

They have taken down the paywall for those who need support with their emotional health throughout the COVID-19 crisis, so you can use their website to help support your emotional health for free until 21st June.

Read more here.

Ricoch 3D Additive Manufacturing

After initially answering the call for PPE with their Ricoh 3D Additive Manufacturing department, tens of thousands of face shields are now coming off the line at Ricoh UK Products Ltd every week to protect the frontline healthcare workers. Thanks to organisational investment in an injection mould and a phenomenal cross-team effort to make this happen they have now diversified their operation to help address this crisis.

“We’ve now received feedback on how their PPE is helping NHS and Care Workers. This makes us feel very humble that we can play our part in tackling Covid-19. Thank you to our frontline workers – it’s our honour to help protect you.”

Read more here.


90% of West Midlands school nursing teams are using ChatHealthNHS messaging to support young people during COVID-19.

Young people can search for their local school nursing team and start a messaging conversation via http://chathealth.nhs.uk. Nationally, messages are up by 50%.

3D Printers helping create PPE

Many companies across the region and the country have stepped up to help create PPE.

Working with Warwickshire-based engineering firm 3P Innovation, Cadbury Mondelēz is re-purposing its 3D printing technology to help produce thousands of visors for medical personnel to protect them against COVID-19.

Other examples include 3D printing company Simple Design Works, who have printed surgical mask clips for various hospitals across the West Midlands. Check out their work here.

YouSmartThing: COVID-19 Essential Travel Assistant – Providing Essential Travel advice for Care Workers

Government Coronavirus travel advice covers second homes, recreation, and foreign travel (https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus). Advice on regional domestic travel for essential workers or trips is scarce and sometimes contradictory. Essential workers, and volunteers in particular, are fearful and anxious about their travel options. Reserved parking areas are not being effectively communicated. Pop-up ‘Nightingale’ hospitals and new test-centres don’t feature on Google and as people are redeployed, untypical patterns of travel and reduced public transport timetables are not catered for. This current gap in travel management puts care-workers and volunteers at increased risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 rather than curtailing the pandemic.

The Covid-19 Essential Travel Assistant directly addresses this problem. Additionally, it provides a seamless extension to managing social distancing throughout the recovery phase and accelerates the opportunity for sustainable on-demand transport.

Read more here.

Nearly 40 Midlands companies have been making ventilator components

As widely reported, a consortium of UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors has come together to produce medical ventilators for ventilatorchallengeuk and help the NHS fight the Coronavirus.

The consortium has now delivered the first ventilators, meeting the demanding specifications for a Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System that were developed by clinicians and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Read more here.

Midlands based company Just Checking among 18 #Techforce19 winners

NHSX and MHCLG have announced 18 digital solutions that have been awarded funding under the TechForce19 challenge. TechForce19 has awarded up to £25,000 each to innovation that offers a digital way to support vulnerable people who need to stay at home or need other help in the community for extended periods of time. The response to the challenge was extremely strong, with over 1,600 innovations submitted.

Just Checking supplies activity monitoring systems, used by local authorities to help with assessment of older people in their homes, for social care. Sensors pick up activities of daily living and display the data in a 24-hour chart. The company also has a second, more sophisticated activity monitoring system, to help manage the care and support of adults with learning disabilities.

See a full list of all the fantastic winners here.

Sandstone Yoga goes digital to combat the Covid-19 disruption

Sandstone Yoga & Pilates is a training franchise based in Aldridge, Walsall which currently has 6 studio spaces in 4 locations in the Midlands and the Cotswolds.

During the disruption caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, Sandstone Yoga have changed the way they operate to appeal to the new ‘normal’ consumers are facing of being at home for the foreseeable future. The company have started to stream their usual sessions live using the internet to connect with customers, offering a completely online service.

Alloy Wire International produce 5km of materials for NHS Nightingale  

Alloy Wire International are a world-leading manufacturer of precision drawn round wire, flat wire, profile wire, bars and wire rope in more than 60 different high-performance nickel alloys based in Brierley Hill, Dudley.

The company has been working hard to keep up with the increased demand for materials during COVID-19 and recently produced 5km of materials to be used in life-saving equipment within the NHS Nightingale Hospital in London.