Germany holds innovation hackathon to help conquer COVID

Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced the results of its #WirVsVirus (#WeVsVirus) contest. With more than 28 thousand taking part and 1,500 projects submitted, the hackathon, says the BMBF, was one of the largest in the world.


The aim of the program has been to promote the development of digital solutions that could aid in limiting the societal impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Held in March, the hackathon has produced 34 prototypes from promising concepts. The event's top sponsor – the BMBF – has devoted EUR 1.5 million to the development and launch of these apps, platforms, and other digital solutions.

At the end of the implementation phase, Germany's Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek pointed out: "The pandemic poses us with many challenges daily. Since the beginning of the crisis, many people in our country have been looking for possible solutions to problems both large and small to deal responsibly with COVID-19." The hackathon aimed to bring some of those solutions to realization. Karliczek added that a total of 147 project ideas were developed in conjunction with the competition.

The minister went on to say that the innovations are intended for daily use. As an example she described a "widget" that would allow free access to verified and reviewable information about COVID-19 on websites, a valuable tool in light of the amount of misinformation circulating about the disease.

Other solutions focus on healthcare. There's the Digitales Wartezimmer UX, which developers say offers "COVID-19 patients a central digital point of contact – from suspected cases to testing, quarantine and recovery." Another is Helferhände – Clinic Buddy, a platform that supports healthcare facilities in bringing new personnel on board as well as their theoretical training. And then there's "LabHive – the digital platform for a strong diagnostic network" which links those who want to find and those offering laboratory resources for the SARS-CoV-2 tests so vital for managing the pandemic.

Hackathon organizers set up implementation of financial R&D support through an existing BMBF program, the "Prototype Fund." In addition to funding, the "corona projects" from the hackathon were also eligible for project assistance from the Prototype Fund team, which helped with project management, research, and presentation of results. Experienced Protoype Fund team coaches also provided advice in implementing the projects, thereby contributing additionally to the sustainability of the innovations.

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