2nd ePitching to Procurers on COVID-19: A vaccine is near, but what comes next? Avy's lifesaving medical drone might have the answer
After the success of the first EIC ePitching to Procurers on COVID-19, the Research & Innovation Horizon 2020 Health programme and the European Innovation Council joined forces to organise a second edition of the event. The second ePitching gathered more than 100 attendees with over 30 public and private procurers on board. In the course of the upcoming days, we will introduce the winners of this ePitching to Procurers and more details about the event in dedicated articles.
While the eyes of the world are glued on the new vaccines and developments announced every day, the medical staff is already focused on another pressing issue: how to transport billions of doses of vaccines from factories to hospitals and clinics? Each type of vaccine demands a different form of transport, packaging and storage, requiring efficient transportation. Patrique Zaman, founder and CEO of Avy, started his pitch with this important, but often overlooked challenge and he attracted the immediate attention of the audience. The Dutch start-up focuses on manufacturing drones suitable for transporting medical cargo such as blood, medicines or samples and developed a solution to transport COVID-19 vaccines as well. The EIC-funded company Avy was one of two winners of the session and we got together with the founder Patrique Zaman to discover their solution in-depth and to understand the importance of these procurement events in their development.
You opened your pitch with a pressing challenge related to COVID-19 vaccines. Could you expand on these views and explain your solution more in-depth?
The big problem with the COVID-19 vaccines is the logistical part. Now that we are finally discovering a vaccine, we have to be able to make them available. But this last part is hard. First of all we need to do this fast - the quicker we can get the vaccines to people, the quicker we can go back to normal - secondly, the temperature that is required for storage can pose problems. The last vaccines from Pfizer need to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, which is extremely cold and means that the regular way to transport by rail does not suffice. So, we came up with an air bridge as a solution to this challenge. Our innovation is the combination of a drone with an airplane and can be used to set up a bridge between hospitals, clinics and for example a laboratory. The drone flies automatically back and forward to transport the vaccines, other samples, tests, etc. We already do this for a couple of years for other medical cargos – for example with blood delivery, or for different vaccines in Africa, and now we also made the inside of the aircraft in a way that it is able to transport these COVID-19 vaccines as well.
You received the EIC grant in July 2020. Could you explain us in what way has your company benefited from joining the EIC-ecosystem?
We used the grant, at least part of it, to make sure that the aircraft and our technology fits better to the end-user requirements. We invented the technology and we have an aircraft that can fly, we know how it needs to be designed to fly safely and reliable, but to actually become a solution, we need to know what is required. When we got the EIC funding, part of the project was researching what hospitals and clinics really wanted and where the highest emergency was. We were trying to understand what technological solution was better for them and, of course, COVID-19 was the obvious challenge. All the organisations are currently working on this and it’s all new material. We have to work together with them to understand what we can change and improve. With the EIC, we are also able to do a demonstration of our projects, we have the opportunity to show to potential clients what we have and also understand the gap between what the clients ultimately need and how we will be able to adapt the technology towards the perfect fit.
In addition, besides the financial side, there’s the networking aspect. Sometimes it’s not that easy to make a bridge with larger companies or with big funding providers and investors. It’s a different world. And I think what the EIC is all about building this bridge so that these two worlds can bond and stay together. I think this is really valuable. Also, I think that in our case, we are making a technology that mainly involves hardware and that’s extremely expensive to do. Even, and although there’s a huge impact that we can make, it simply requires a lot of pre-investment and with the help of the EIC and the all network behind it, we can get to the next stage. We need to receive another investment round because we need to scale our production line and for that it’s also great to use the network from the EIC. Like for instance during the ePitching to Procurers on COVID-19.
Why did you apply for this ePitching-session? What was the main motivation behind it?
We have the solution, we have something in hand, but we don’t have the network to reach out. We’ve been working on multiple projects in the medical delivery field, but not for COVID-19 vaccines., But our solution can be implemented anywhere in Europe. We are located in one of the European Union countries and for us it’s important to show that we are here and we want to get in touch with the right people, with the right organisations to build a network and explore further steps.
Did the ePitching to Procurers meet your expectations?
First of all, this event is really important for us because we are a new company and we don’t have a lot of experience with procurers and tenders. We can still learn a lot and that’s also why this event is so important: we can discover how it works within the European Union and with all the procurers. Secondly, and especially during these times, the events need to switch to online formats, but they are not always a great success. Sometimes, when we have webinars or online meetings, either it doesn’t work technically, or we have a very limited amount of people attending and that can be a disappointment. But here it was the opposite. There were a lot of people participating, a lot of procurers, we received super insights, great pitches, great conversations and good questions as well. My to-do list is again larger than ever, and I think this is a very good feedback.
Stay tuned for more articles on the EIC ePitching to Procurers on COVID-19, including further interviews with the winners as well as with attending procurers.