In late March, local leaders from academia, health care, and the private sector joined a conference call to hear state officials paint a grim picture: Hospitals in Massachusetts would need millions more units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep health care workers safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Local manufacturers with experience making things like active apparel and footwear were eager to help, but to do so they’d need to figure out what to make, how to make it, and where to send their products. Each of those decisions, in turn, opened up a variety of other challenges, like sourcing new materials, navigating a maze of quickly changing regulations, and finding the right buyers. In short, a steep learning curve stood between the hospitals that needed equipment and the companies able to help.
It was against this backdrop that state officials launched the Massachusetts Emergency Response Team (M-ERT) under the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The group’s organizers, aiming to make an impact in time for the projected peak of Covid-19 patients, quickly established a cross-industry collaboration with the mission of helping local manufacturers pivot operations to produce the most-needed equipment at the highest possible volumes.
Since then, the group has helped more than 50 manufacturers produce millions of items, including FDA-compliant face shields, surgical masks and respirators, ventilator components, isolation gowns, bottles of hand sanitizer, test swabs, and other products. Among other successes, the effort has helped fill local hospitals’ need for face shields, put a local company on track to become the largest producer…