Hero Shield – Co-producing healthcare face visors during the COVID-19 pandemic
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), has provided financing to a cross-border group of 18 companies (headed by Northern Irish company Shnuggle), to help them produce thousands of low-cost, quality face shields for front-line workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Adam Murphy, Co-Founder of Snhuggle - a Northern Irish company producing baby products - set about contacting local companies to ask for their help in producing Emergency Face Shields for the National Health Service (NHS) and other Key Workers in Northern Ireland. This gave birth to a collaboration with several companies specialised in precision engineering and willing to collaborate on the manufacturing of a key piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight the COVID-19 virus. The “Hero Shield Ltd” was therefore created through a cross-border collaboration aimed at designing, testing and producing the two-piece plastic face shields.
All partners worked at high speed to re-purpose their supply chains and ensure a timely delivery of the shields during the crisis. Metal toolmaker Crossen Engineering at Crossnacreevy and Lisburn-based Ad-Vance Engineering have produced two injection mould tools in record time which were then used by Crossen Engineering and Plastics 2000 to produce the mouldings for the quick-assembly face mask. Brett Martin in Newtownabbey, a global supplier of specialist plastic products for display sectors, supplied the material (PET) for the front shield, which was later cut to size by Cutting Industries in Lisburn and then packed in a clean room environment by Denroy Plastics in Bangor.
In parallel to a crowdfunding round online, the project received funding from the UK Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans and, crucially, financial support of €300,000 from Co-innovate - a funding and capability development programme supported by the EU's INTERREG VA programme (Ireland-Northern Ireland-Scotland) and by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The companies involved had never produced face shields for health workers before. However, through unprecedented cross-border co-ordination and financing efforts, they were able to quickly re-design their production chains and work together to supply protective equipment in a timely and effective manner to keep public health workers across the UK and Ireland safe during the pandemic.
What is the current status of your innovation?
Northern Irish NHS has now purchased Hero Shield directly. All commercial sales of Hero Shield have been passed to its production partners, with 5% of all proceeds being donated back to Hero Shield; which will continue to operate as a charity going forwards.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Key partners 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.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Main beneficiaries were hospitals and front-line workers receiving the face shields for free during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Partners were able to send 100,000 face shields on a free or non-profit basis to front-line workers and hospitals. The online crowdfunding received a total £33,997.
Challenges and Failures
Conditions for Success
- Dedication and will of all partners involved was crucial to ensure the project could work successfully and deliver the face shields as soon as possible.
- The flexibility of the INTERREG VA programme was also key to ensure that the innovative, cross-border approach of the companies could be supported and financed.
The project partners are making the design of the face shields available to companies worldwide on an ‘open source’ basis so the product can be re-created wherever it is needed.