In a short period, some of the most influential companies in the world US pivoted to address the COVID-19 Pandemic. But there is always a struggle about how to talk about what they are doing. If a firm focuses just on the money, they don’t seem committed to helping. If they focus on showcasing products; they look like they are trying to commercialize the disaster. If they just talk about what they’ve done, they can seem narcissistic and tone-deaf. The ideal is to set an example and highlight what others are doing with your tools and focus on the problem.
Intel navigated this minefield this week very well as they highlighted not just the $50M they were initially spending on the effort, but the showcasing that Intel understands the problem and that they are willing to step up and be counted in the nation’s defense.
Let me walk you through what Intel is doing and why they are setting a powerful positive example.
The Power Of A Tech Company
Depending on the nature of a disaster, certain types of companies have significant advantages. If we are talking about a natural disaster where people need emergency transportation, then a transportation company will be uniquely suited to help. A medical catastrophe favors pharma firms.
But technology is a force multiplier. It can make vehicles more powerful and more reliable; it can cut down production time for medical equipment, and it can massively shorten the time it takes to find a remedy for a disease.
While tech companies are profitable, their real power is in their capabilities as a force multiplier, and this played out in the Intel presentation. And since Intel technology underlies much of the hardware currently being used to mitigate this health problem, Intel is in a unique position to help.
Intel opened with the challenges the nation faces. These include the lack of capacity to address the need to diagnose, treat, and, cure the disease; the rate of innovation isn’t scaling quickly enough to address the Pandemic; Schools are shutting down, and lack of technology access is hurting remote learning; the need for people to both stay safe and to have a functioning economy has been unmet.
By setting out the elements of the portions of the Pandemic that Intel feels are both the most important and that best lend themselves to Intel’s resources and talents, the company can then position what they are doing in context. And then, by using a blend of expertise, intellectual property, and funds, they can then address each problem in turn.
Addressing The Problem
Intel initially assessed its strengths and incorporated its partners, including Health & Life Sciences, Cloud Services Providers, OEMs, Communication Service Providers, Schools, and Government NGOs into their first run at helping.
Taking each issue, they initially went after the shortage of medical resources by bringing forward the idea of a Virtual ICU with the help of Medical Informatics, they helped create a new bed-mounted ventilator with Dyson, they helped fund 1M gloves, masks, and other PPE, they helped create an AI to help India better manage the Pandemic, they worked with Beijing Genomics and Lenovo to provide resources to analyze the COVID-19 Genome. They also sent $1M to Red Cross China, and $6M to help with localized relief efforts.
To address the innovation shortage, they fueled a shared effort as a member of the Global XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance.
And they noted that they also took care of their people investing $100M in benefits like childcare and extended leave during this crisis.
Taking It A Step Further
That was just the start, and this week they announced they were stepping up their efforts significantly with another $50M investment to add to their previous relief efforts and even more powerful company-wide initiatives.
Intel branded this new effort, “Intel’s Pandemic Response Initiative,” and, as before, it focuses on combating COVID-19 Pandemic but also to help prepare the world for the new future. This initiative included a focused effort to improve response time and readiness to accelerate the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 and assist in the creation of a vaccine. This focus isn’t just for this Pandemic but to be better prepared for the next one as well. A significant push to increase Online Learning support to help employees and students that need but don’t have access to technology. And an effort to coordinate, collect, and fuel ideas from external partners and employee-led projects targeting areas in need of immediate impact.
This program showcases the power of a technology company, not money, but the ability to increase innovation, research, and perhaps find a better, faster way to get over this worldwide Pandemic.
The Pandemic provides a challenge of epic proportions, and the technology industry is stepping up to help. Intel technology underlies most of the systems in place to respond to this disaster. They focused on the problem and then selected resources, including but not exclusively financial, to help mitigate the problem. This effort should help them and the industry, drive a better, faster overall outcome to this event. It is a showcase for how a technology firm can pull together its full power to go after a critical world problem.