‘Quarantent’ and ‘Farewell Suit’ among the designs in a global competition to fight coronavirus

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Global Grad Show is a celebration of academic ingenuity billed as the “world’s leading exhibition of innovative graduate design.”

The event takes place each year as part of Dubai Design Week with the next installment scheduled for November. But an emergency edition has been rapidly convened to seek ideas for tackling the coronavirus pandemic that has bought much of the world to a standstill.

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Among the most eye-catching proposals are self-sanitizing smart lockers for hospital staff and open-air depots that allow delivery drivers to avoid face-to-face contact.

Organizers last month sent an open call to higher education institutions around the world for proposals that “identify and address a critical issue surrounding Covid-19.”

“There are a couple of ways to respond to a crisis,” says Brendan McGetrick, head of curation of Global Grad Show. “One is defensive and one is creative. It is a positive thing for people to stay at home at this point. But also we can’t just bunker down and hope for it to be over.”

"Steam Nurse" is a smart locker that cleans the clothes of hospital staff with chemicals and ultraviolet light.

No parameters

No parameters were placed on entrants, to maximize the breadth of innovation. But projects should have a realistic prospect of short-term implementation as the competition organizers, backed by the resources of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, intend to make ideas into reality – and fast.

“Any projects that get accepted, we will help develop and try to bring to fruition, and also provide financial support,” says McGetrick. “These should not be things that will take years of research and development because we don’t have years.”

Almost 400 proposals have been received with submissions now closed. Organizers have compiled a shortlist, with innovations spanning from the relatively simple, such as a grip handle to avoid touching objects with bare hands, to the technically audacious, such as a system for smart food tracking.

Many designs focus on support for key workers such as medical staff and delivery workers. Other innovations protect the public, such as a home “Quarantent” to allow for isolation in a house with other people – featuring a separate water connection and semi-transparent roof to allow natural light in – and a poignant “Farewell Suit” conforming to hospital sanitation standards that would allow family members to visit dying relatives without risk of infection.

A design for the "Quarantent."