Austria is home to many highly specialized companies, in fields from biotechnology to advanced manufacturing and high-tech research. The coronavirus poses a monumental challenge, both for our societies and for established businesses and supply chains. With masks and disinfectants in short supply and new approaches needed to restart our social life, Austrian companies have some innovative ideas to get us going again.
We present some of the most intriguing ways Austrian businesses fight the coronavirus:
500,000 protective masks per day: “Made in Austria”
Up until recently, no Austrian company had been set up to manufacture a protective mask offering sufficient protection for people working in the health professions under coronavirus conditions. Austria had to purchase and import the needed supplies from other countries. Not anymore – at least as long as this crisis lasts. Now, a consortium of six companies in Vorarlberg, including known textile and lingerie manufacturer Wolford, has been producing up to 500,000 face masks for health workers every day for the past couple of weeks.
AGRANA produces alcohol for disinfectants
The sugar group AGRANA was given permission to produce disinfectants using bioethanol, which would otherwise be processed to fuels. “We will be supplying disinfectant manufacturers by tanker truck,” AGRANA spokesman Markus Simak told the Austrian Press Agency (APA).
AGRANA produces a total of about 600,000 liters of bioethanol per day in Pischelsdorf (Tulln district), close to Vienna. Normally, this high-proof alcohol is added to petrol and used as fuel in internal combustion engines. Bioethanol is produced primarily from starchy cereals such as wheat or corn, as well as from thick sugar beet juice.
The new chatbot “Mona” on the Business Service Portal of the Austrian government (Unternehmensserviceportal – USP) covers relevant issues for companies relating to the coronavirus crisis and the economy. It is supposed to support the business community during the crisis with answers to pressing questions regarding the government’s support package and recent developments.
Infineon manufactures chips for ventilators in Austria
The German chip manufacturer Infineon will supply 38 million chips for ventilators essential in the fight against the coronavirus – a large proportion of which will be produced in Austria. Used in the operation of some 50% of data servers across the globe, they drive medical devices such as the medical ventilators currently in such high demand, as well as industrial production equipment for the food industry, among others.
The security chips are also integrated into the E-cards used in the Austrian health care system and enable contactless payment with bank and credit cards.
Digital insurance manager CLARK goes live in Austria
With the digital insurance manager CLARK, customers can manage their insurance policies online per app or computer effective immediately, and receive advice from insurance experts.
Hack the Crisis
At the “hackathon” Hack the Crisis, Austrian startups developed solutions for problems caused by the coronavirus crisis – from online tutorials for school pupils to mobile phone games for learning the etiquette of “social distancing” to technical innovations in the field of virus identification.
Protection by deploying drones
Consensium, a merger of the Lower Austrian company Smart Digital and Atos IT Solutions und Services GmbH – the Austrian subsidiary of Atos, which is the world’s leading supplier for the digital transformation – is now supporting the fight against the coronavirus with automated processes, artificial intelligence, blockchain and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV i.e. drones).
Medical advice on video
Since April 3, the Viennese healthcare start-up drd (doctors recommended by doctors) has been offering simple and safe initial medical care by experienced general practitioners of choice via video telephony on smartphones, tablets or PCs. The costs of €49 per consultation will be borne by Drei and Generali up to and including April 30, 2020.
Intensive research by Austrian life sciences companies
Austrian companies are conducting extensive research and development work related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, causing the illness COVID-19. From a fast test to active substances, we present a small selection of important projects.
- The Vienna-based biotech company Apeiron Biologics has developed an active substance to treat COVID-19. It will now be tested on 200 seriously ill patients in Austria, Germany and Denmark.
- The Viennese startup APEPTICO has been conducting research for years on the development of drugs made of peptides for application in acute, life-threatening syndromes triggering acute lung failure, namely the so-called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
- The University of Innsbruck is moving ahead with the development and evaluation of a novel high throughput technology for the genetic analysis of patient samples at its Faculty of Biology.
- The Salzburg-based biotech company Procomcure has introduced the PhoenixDx COVID-19 real-time test to the marketplace. The rapid coronavirus test detects within 30 minutes whether or not someone is infected with the coronavirus.
- The health-tech startup Scarletred has developed a coronavirus APP to relieve the burden on hotlines.