Dr Steven Berger (1984) is a former fellow of Emmanuel. The start-ups he currently works with, in his role at Asahi Kasei, could provide much-needed technology during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, as he tells us here...
After spending 16 years in basic research, first at the Cavendish and then at Bell Labs in the US, I took the plunge and entered the world of venture-backed start-ups and small companies - 25 years later, and I’m still there! At the last start-up, Crystal IS, we developed an ultraviolet (UV) LED operating at 265nm, designed to destroy human pathogens in water, on surfaces and in the air. Since being acquired by a Japanese conglomerate, Asahi Kasei, the technology has continued to evolve into something with great potential.
With the advent of Covid-19, and a global need for new approaches to virus protection, I suggested we reach out beyond our normal customer-base to see what new ideas might be brewing in this space, but not necessarily on our radar-screen; thus was born our UV Accelerator.
We announced via various PR and social media that we wanted to hear from start-ups and small companies who had new ideas for surface and air disinfection products using UV LEDs. Our goal is to provide some seed-funding and LED-specific expertise to bring the most promising product ideas to market as soon as possible. The result has been very encouraging with applications coming in from across the spectrum of uses, and multiple countries.
One of the really interesting questions emerging from this activity is how to judge what kind of products will be truly helpful in a post-Covid world, rather than just focusing on the immediate issues. Maybe using UV light to rapidly “wash” our hands without singing “Happy Birthday” twice, or consuming litres of water? Maybe having a miniaturized gadget in our pocket that allows us to quickly disinfect common-touch surfaces such as cash-machine key pads or door handles before or after we use them? Maybe…
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