A group of firms has come together to set up not-for-profit company, Hero Shield Ltd, to manufacture face visors for health workers with help from €300,000 of funding from Co-Innovate.
The Co-Innovate initiative, led by InterTradeIreland and supported by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), is providing the cash injection to the cross-border group of 18 companies, to help them produce thousands of low-cost, quality face shields in response to Covid-19.
There has been an overwhelming response from the health sector both north and south, with orders recently placed for 70,000 visors per week.
From an initial idea on 20th March, the collective worked at break-neck speed to repurpose their manufacturing facilities and supply chains.
Adam Murphy, CEO of Shnuggle, said: “Hero Shield was born when we heard about the desperate need for PPE. We saw an opportunity to use our collective skills and knowledge of precision engineering, plastics and manufacturing to create a low-cost, fast-manufacture face shield. We wanted these to be distributed free of charge or at-cost. We will sell some product at a small profit to private companies, which will raise funds to make even more Hero Shields, allowing us to continue operating as a not-for-profit company. Funding from Co-Innovate has provided us with the financial support to keep this amazing venture running for the benefit of all in society.
The partners, none of whom had ever produced face shields before, include Northern Ireland companies Shnuggle Ltd, Crossen Engineering, Denroy Plastics, Minprint and Ad-Vance Engineering, with support from Queen’s University of Belfast. The Irish cohort of the partnership includes Xtru Pak in Cavan and Glen Dimplex in Dublin. These are only some of the firms active within the project.
Sebastien Lenoir, Technical Services Director at Glen Dimplex, said: “Glen Dimplex welcomed the opportunity to join the numerous companies involved in the Hero Shield project. We are delighted to adapt our plant in Dunleer to manufacture protective face shields to aid front line staff in the fight against Covid-19”.
Gina McIntyre, CEO of the SEUPB said: “We are delighted that there was sufficient flexibility within the INTERREGVA Programme to facilitate this innovative and responsive cross-border approach from these companies. By working together, it is possible for them to help combat the virus and protect front line health workers carrying out their essential work, through the production of this essential protective equipment. I wish to pay tribute to everyone involved for the speed at which this proposal has been turned into a reality.”
Neil Ryan, InterTradeIreland’s Director of Co-Innovate, said: “Our key role was not only to help bring the group together, but also providing a financial lifeline. The partners have been running at their own cost, as working capital is vital for keeping this operation going for as long as it’s needed. Co-Innovate is providing €300,000 to help support their efforts and will continue to play a central role in coordinating the collective.”
The project partners are making the design available to companies worldwide on an ‘open source’ basis so the product can be re-created wherever it’s needed. Hero Shield needs to keeping raising money to continue the supply of the face visors to the most vulnerable front-line workers for as long as possible during this Covid-19 crisis. Information on the project and details for donating can be found at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/facevisors.
Co-Innovate supports over 1,400 SMEs and micro-businesses in Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland, and Western Scotland to develop their innovation capabilities and collaborate on research and development projects.
Match-funding for the Co-Innovate Programme has been provided by the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland.