Protocol Labs Research
2020-04-27 / News, Grants
Announcing our COVID-19 Open Innovation Grant awardees

After a marathon review, followed by necessary legal and financial procedures, we are happy to announce the projects we are supporting with Protocol Labs' COVID-19 Open Innovation Grant program.

This program was created to surface and support open-source projects working on tools to help humanity through present and future pandemics. Over the last three weeks we received 55 applications — an outstanding response from our global community.

The winning submissions cover software, hardware, data, and research, include specialised communities that will use our funds to support other efforts, and span timescales from the immediate to the long(er) term.

Here are the selected projects, in the awardees' own words:

  • Affordable high-quality electronic stethoscope designed to assist healthcare providers ($20,000)
    This project started with a request on, from a frontline physician in San Diego, for a very affordable wireless stethoscope that could be made readily available during this pandemic. Requested features included Bluetooth capabilities to reduce close proximity exposure of providers to patients with COVID-19, wide availability of the design, and higher-quality construction and sound quality than the low-cost stethoscopes currently in use.
  • - Behaviour, Environment and Treatments for COVID-19 ($10,000)
    Beat19 is a research study designed to help us learn about what happens before, during and after people have symptoms of infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Participants provide data to an IRB-approved registry, using a short daily survey about symptoms and medications. Beat19 will provide ongoing analysis of data updated daily and displayed at our website and access to curated information about the development of new treatments for COVID-19.
  • Digital observatory for socially produced online COVID-19 information ($20,000)
    As people struggle to make sense of the COVID-19 pandemic, many turn to social media and social computing systems to share information, understand what’s happening, and find support. We are building a digital observatory to understand where and how people are talking about COVID-19-related information. The observatory collects open-access social media data related to COVID-19 in formats that will be usable by researchers with less technical skills. The public datasets and freely licensed tools will allow researchers, practitioners, and public health officials to more efficiently understand and act to improve these sources of information during crises.
  • Geo Backtracer ($12,000)
    Geo Backtracer is a service to store GPS-like locations of millions of users in real-time, and provide a way to backtrace, over a period of 30 days, users that were close for more than 15 minutes. This is just one brick that can be coupled with backends aggregating points from mobile phones; it is meant to be scalable and solve this single problem.
  • Helpful Engineering ($20,000)
    Helpful Engineering was created to provide an open-source platform for volunteers to design, source, and execute projects that can help mitigate people’s suffering from the COVID-19 crisis. We provide organizational support, connecting projects to peer review, documentation, volunteers, funding opportunities, and stakeholders to get projects deployed as rapidly as possible. This organizational leverage supports over 35 projects powered by over 3,400 volunteers and a Slack community of over 16,000.
  • Open Medical - Origami Respirator ($12,500)
    The Origami Mask is a respirator design that requires no sewing or special equipment. The project requires a filtering and breathable substrate (e.g. sterilization wrap, vacuum-cleaning bag), two rubber bands, and a zip tie. Respirators can be cut and assembled within four minutes. This is a low-tech solution for distributing manufacturing of respirators to a broad network of makers and manufacturers.
  • Open Ventilator Remote Monitoring ($20,000)
    A number of teams around the world are currently developing emergency ventilators that can be rapidly manufactured in the upcoming days or weeks, when hospitals are expected to run out of conventional ventilators. These ventilator design teams and medical professionals expressed the need for a remote monitoring system that can be deployed onsite within a medical facility to provide a single dashboard interface to monitor the status of multiple ventilators. We are quickly developing an open-source remote monitoring interface for emergency ventilators that is low-cost and interoperable with as many ventilator designs as possible.
  • RespiraWorks ($20,000)
    Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, a global ventilator shortage has accelerated the need for low-cost ventilators in developing countries. We have designed a ventilator that targets COVID-19 patients and can be assembled locally using our open-source designs. Our design is unique from others in that it utilizes a sophisticated ventilation system (involving a high-performance fan, pressure sensors, and a microcontroller), simplifies assembly and manufacturing, and relies heavily on high-quality software that will also be open-source.
  • UBORA: safe, certifiable, robust, open ($20,000)
    UBORA is an e-platform for co-developing and sharing open-source medical devices (OSMDs) underpinned by a unique framework and design methodology which prioritises safety and compliance with medical device regulations. Considering the current global emergency and the increasing risk of infectious disease outbreaks in our globalised world, we have launched a competition for technological solutions aimed at providing integrated management for the present pandemic and eventual future outbreaks.
  • VentMon - Inline Ventilator Test Fixture and Monitor ($20,000)
    VentMon addresses an urgent need to improve testing of open-source ventilator designs. The same machine and software will provide monitoring and alarms for critical care specialists using life-critical ventilators. It is a simple inline device plugged into the airway of a ventilator that measures flow and pressure (and thereby volume), making sure the ventilator is performing to specification (such as the UK RVMS spec). In case a ventilator fails, VentMon raises an audio and internet alarm. It can be used for testing before deployment as well as for ICU patient monitoring.

We thank every one of our applicants for their submissions. While we were unable to fund every application, we thoroughly reviewed all of them and were amazed by the breadth and quality of the work being done.

It has been inspiring to witness the world come together over these past weeks to try to find solutions to this crisis. A number of companies have decided to make their intellectual property available, as part of the Open COVID Pledge (we have long extolled the virtues of open IP). Other fast-track grant programs have been launched by philanthropists, companies, and governments. An incredible amount of open-source projects have been started all around the globe.

If you’re looking to donate your time or money to a project, and the ones above aren’t a good match to your interests or skills, we encourage you to browse platforms like HelpWithCovid, where you’ll find hundreds of efforts at every level of complexity and maturity.

Our contribution does not stop here. The IPFS project announced COVID-19 relief as the quarterly focus for the IPFS Grants Platform; projects using IPFS to help contain the spread and impact of this disease may be eligible to apply. The community also made a mirror of the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset available on IPFS.

We’ll continue looking into ways in which we can contribute while working towards our mission of making the internet faster, safer, and more open. We are a globally distributed company and are still hiring, both in Research and across the organisation.