Fighting a Pandemic Through Technology: One Year Later

By Jeff Rittener, Chief Government Affairs Officer for Intel

What a year it has been. At this point in 2020, we were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no one knew how long it would last. Few expected that a whole year later, we would just be cautiously emerging from the pandemic’s major effects. That makes me even more grateful that one year ago, as Congress passed the first of many emergency COVID relief packages to address the most pressing needs of the American people, Intel committed $50 million toward its own Pandemic Response Technology Initiative (PRTI), to provide immediate technological relief where it was needed most, develop innovative solutions to support the new normal and invest in technology that would limit the impact of future crises.

Today, we are excited to announce the launch of the Intel RISE Technology Initiative (IRTI). Aligned with Intel’s RISE 2030 goals, we are transitioning the PRTI process and the technical expertise of our employee volunteers to partner with organizations worldwide to apply our solutions and expertise to geographically unique problems as well as global challenges. Through a new $20 million commitment, the IRTI will continue to review and fund projects related to healthcare, education and the economy with new dedicated workstreams for social equity and human rights, accessibility, and climate action, creating a broader, purpose-driven platform for action.

IRTI will build on the scope of PRTI, which includes 230 projects spread across 170 organizations. Below are just a few examples of the initiative’s effectiveness in healthcare, education and the economy:

Healthcare
Intel’s preventative healthcare projects targeted patient and provider needs along with work in research and therapeutic development. This included partnering with our customers to provide high-performance compute (HPC) resources for COVID-19 research as well as research projects that go beyond the current pandemic. The Berlin Institute of Health leveraged Intel®-based HPC architecture to successfully perform compute-intensive RNA sequencing on a single-cell level to better understand how the novel coronavirus works.

Education
One of our most exciting education projects focused on the crucial emotional support teachers provide. District Zero is a Chicago-based company that focuses on wellness-based learning. Using natural-language processing and sentiment analysis, District Zero’s emotional learning tool gives teachers actionable insights and solutions to help students who may be struggling. With Intel’s support, the company will deploy its system for all students in the Indian Prairie School District that serves 30,000 students from areas outside just outside of Chicago.

Economy
Investing in solutions offers a degree of resilience against the future spread of disease and pandemics. With funding from Intel, Purdue University is developing autonomous robots that can detect pathogens and disinfect within seconds. Two functional robots already exist and are being tested in Purdue COVID-19 quarantine rooms and classrooms. Six patents later, the university is moving toward commercialization opportunities. The hope is that this work will help make public spaces safer and minimize exposure risk in high traffic “hot zone” areas for pathogens.

As the federal government continues to prioritize COVID relief initiatives, including implementing the recently-passed American Rescue Plan Act, and looks toward rebuilding our post-pandemic economy through the recently proposed $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan, it’s encouraging to see the public and private sectors joining together in times of great national need. At Intel, we will continue to do our part in the private sector and work with our public sector partners to enable the U.S. to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever. By transitioning the PRTI to the IRTI, we are applying technology and innovation not only to the needs generated by the pandemic but also to additional societal needs that will continue to arise. We look forward to partnering with the government, industry, academia and a host of other organizations to keep this progress going.