Organisations worldwide have been able to carry on with business (almost) as usual, thanks to advances in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) that may have seemed a pipe-dream not so long ago.
Digital and tech are helping to keep the wheels of business turning through super convenient video conferencing, highly effective remote working and creative methods of instant communication. Meanwhile, STEM organisations and educators are turning their tools and knowledge towards supporting the fight against the coronavirus.
Here we look at some examples of how businesses in our region are using technology to assist their work during this time, alongside examples of how STEM is helping business on a wider scale.
West Midlands Comes Together Through Technology
The most difficult period of history for some time has brought out the best in so many people and organisations.
Birmingham icon Cadbury’s has teamed up with Warwick engineering company 3P Innovation, repurposing its 3D printing technology -normally used to make chocolate sculptures at Bournville – to help print medical visors for NHS staff (Read more here).
3P has already delivered the first visors to a Warwickshire NHS clinic and will be scaling up their operations with the aim of making and delivering up to 10,000 units every week.
Staff at Bishop Vesey Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield, have been putting their design technology equipment and technical knowledge to good use to produce crucial personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff and key workers at several hospitals and nursing homes across Greater Birmingham and the Black Country.
This work is being carried out using 3D printing equipment purchased through the Millennium Point Small Grants scheme, so we are delighted to see this initiative in action.
It has also been great to see the independent restaurants and bars of Birmingham utilise technology to find creative ways of providing customers with meals, drinks and more during the lockdown, as well as engaging with their audiences using social media.
With a view towards a time when businesses and the community can get back to normal, University of Birmingham researchers are working to address the COVID-19 pandemic in a host of innovative projects, playing a pivotal role in the global challenge to beat the virus.
Video Conferencing – Keeping Teams Connected and Business Moving Forward
Staying connected while in lockdown has been made immeasurably easier thanks to growth in technology over the years allowing effective, real-time communication.
Video conferencing has proven to be a crucial method of staying in touch with colleagues, clients, suppliers and customers across companies of varying size and divisions.
Video conferencing was first introduced in the early 60s and was primarily used by television stations to enable live interviewees during broadcasts.
As technology continued to progress in the 80s, the widespread use of video conferencing had begun and video calls were now supported by broadband services. This created a new and exciting way for whole households to stay connected and entertained.
Webcams were introduced in the 90s on university campuses, before the first commercial webcam, the ‘QuickCam’, arrived on the market in August 1994.
Fast forward to the current day, video conferencing has become available to almost everyone and is a convenient and cost-effective way to chat with friends, family, colleagues and even strangers.
They have become an incredible tool for collaboration, allowing brainstorming sessions, presentations and debates in real-time, which have helped create better connections between a business’ internal and external team.
Remote Working – Taking The Office to The Front Room
Another way that advancements in STEM have resulted in more operational efficiency within businesses is the introduction of mobile working.
Being able to work remotely with just an internet connection and smart device to hand, employees now have the opportunity to maximise convenience and productivity whilst working.
Employees that are able to use their own smart device are statistically more productive. The familiarity of a person’s own device as opposed to the constant trial and error with one assigned to them plays a big part in enhancing confidence and overall quality in their work.
This also saves a lot of time and money as companies don’t have to distribute expensive technology to employees that already have access to a suitable device.
Thanks to advancements in technology, the hassle of a long commute is no longer 100% essential, while access to important files and documents has remained the same.
With the ability to save all documents into a cloud and have multiple team members working on the same document at one time, collaborative working is now both efficient and risk-free.
Time management amongst employees has also increased as with the ability to work on the go, they are able to complete smaller tasks at any time. For example, a person can scroll through their emails while brushing their teeth in the morning.
The increase in access at all times also creates an easy path for any employees, customers, clients and external teams etc to forward on any issues or emergencies within seconds, so that they may be dealt with promptly.
With all these developments in the way people work, many businesses have not only been able to carry on as normal, but have been able to thrive in the process. Communication has increased and the bond between teams has improved.
Millennium Point – Committed to pushing STEM forward
Here at Millennium Point, we think it is more crucial now than ever before that businesses look at how STEM can help them to adapt, innovate and make an impact. Our organisation is committed to boosting developments in STEM across the West Midlands, investing more than £5m back into the West Midlands region through projects, events and initiatives.
The Millennium Point Charitable Trust was created to aid innovations like these with funding and proactive support.
Every year the trust grants over £400,000 to projects that support the growth and development of STEM and education across the West Midlands, and there’s no doubt in how valuable these projects have proved to be during times like these; not only for businesses but for communities and the economy as a whole.