The federal government’s response to urgent national needs has long driven industry innovation. From World War II to the Space Program to emergency response during natural disasters, government and industry come together in our most trying times, not for just another business opportunity, but to fill a critical public need.
The Coronavirus pandemic is no different. As millions of government and industry workers focused on the shift to massive telework this month, federal agencies were fast-tracking requests for information and proposals to counteract the virus’ attack on health and finances.
The National Institutes of Health drove the outreach to industry as it became the first federal agency to use an emergency procurement vehicle designed with a pandemic in mind. NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases issued a notice of special interest seeking research, development, and testing of vaccines, and its National Institute of General Medical Sciences issued a proposal for data analytics support for making predictive models about the spread of the virus. As part of this urgent process, accelerated reviews enable awards to be issued within 60 days.
That’s just the beginning of the kind of public-private partnerships Coronavirus is likely to bring about, primarily in healthcare, but also in technology and other sectors. As the situation evolves, government is sure to call on the tech industry for innovation and faster delivery of services in everything from 5G networking to cybersecurity to artificial intelligence to mobile devices and applications. The demands for telehealth capabilities, alone, are enormous. The ingenuity is there to seize opportunities -- for those ready to spring into action. Already, we have seen great examples across public and private sectors in response to Coronavirus:
- The Defense Department providing medical equipment to private hospitals;
- Distilleries and luxury perfume makers manufacturing hand sanitizer;
- Domino’s, responding to the virus’ impact on restaurant dining due to social distancing, recruiting 10,000 new hires to handle pizza orders and deliveries; and
- Nextdoor, the social networking app designed around local communities, adding a Help Map to let neighbors offer to help one another.
Crises, by nature, sow chaos and unpredictability. In a pandemic, the fallout is pretty evenly distributed. Organizations can set themselves apart by looking harder for new opportunities, thinking creatively about how they can contribute, and moving quickly to respond.