Harnessing Technology and Innovation to Fight COVID-19

Amira Sharon, Ph.D. VP of Strategy and R&D at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) outlines the path IAI has taken to shoulder fighting COVID-19


Several years ago, when IAI started to advance the integration of innovative technologies in its operations, that move was not meant to fight a hidden enemy, such as the Coronavirus. Rather, the initiative was aligned with IAI’s innovation in its classical operations: aerospace and defense. Then as the Coronavirus started spreading across the globe, the lateral innovation processes within IAI took a new direction, seeking to save lives.

The infrastructure we built at IAI in recent years allows us to be more flexible and agile in our current operations, while leveraging the connections we have established with startups and accelerator ecosystems, enables us to work in an Open Innovation framework. Faced with the COVID—19 pandemic, IAI began evaluating various assistance scenarios that could be beneficial at the national level in Israel. We worked on two channels: collaborating with the defense and healthcare ministries and working with the Israeli Corporations Authority to understand the healthcare needs from the field. The new connection and forum, which was created between defense and healthcare agencies, has led to a joint platform to which the hospitals bring forth their needs while we work to devise solutions.

The new forum allows a two-way flow of information and feedback, which is productive for both parties. We ventured into profound need identification, established contact with the hospitals and toured their premises. We then worked on focused solutions addressing the needs of medical professionals. Those same professionals are committed to this process despite the immense workload they shoulder. Those needs were communicated to IAI R&D and innovation leaders, who then set about finding solutions and helping the world during this crisis.

Testing the initial batch of Ventway Sparrow respirators produced at IAI. Photo: IAI

This orchestrated effort has resulted in a range of technological solutions: ventilators, sanitation, diagnostic, protective and even disease predictive systems. These solutions are being developed following prioritization of medical needs, demonstrating the unique value of IAI: a combination of innovation, technology, and, fast, exceptional solutions.

In early April 2020, we inaugurated an assembly line for ventilators at IAI’s missile division, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense and Inovytec, which specializes in emergency medical systems. The first shipments comprising dozens of ventilators have already been delivered to the Health Ministry. Shortly, we will be able to manufacture hundreds of ventilators per week. The turbine-based Ventway Sparrow Ventilator is lightweight, easy to use and provides invasive or non-invasive ventilation to children or adults. It complies with the strictest medical standards and is used by hospitals and emergency care centers in Israel and abroad. It provides life-supporting respiratory treatment in a wide range of medical scenarios, including the Coronavirus.

Another unique solution, developed within only a week, involves sanitation of medical rooms with UVC technology. IAI engineers developed their solution following consultation with the staff of Shamir Medical Center where it is currently undergoing test and evaluation. Once test results have been assessed, IAI will be able to build hands-free sanitation systems capable of disinfecting a room within 30 minutes.

Yet another development allows remote measurement of physiological parameters. This system, which was developed in collaboration with the Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D) at the Israel Ministry of Defense and the Technion, uses radar, Electro-Optic, and AI data analysis to measure pulse, temperature, saturation and breathing rate. It is being tested now at hospitals in Israel.

Based upon our commitment to provide our best capabilities and people to fight the Coronavirus, IAI is partnering in dozens of other ventures that help fight the pandemic. We send our appreciation and gratitude to the medical teams in Israel and abroad, who are heroically fighting the virus. Now is the time to join forces, work, and overcome the challenges!

Read more on IAI’s COVID-19 related activities.