Tech community, health authorities launch COVID-19 Supply Hub

'Supply hub' launches

What happened: Province launches new platform to manage offers for medical supplies

Why it matters: The COVID-19 Supply Hub was built in just seven days as part of a private-public initiative to tackle the pandemic 

Organizations looking to boost B.C.’s access to medical supplies amidst the pandemic have a new tool to tap.

The province on Wednesday (April 1) unveiled the COVID-19 Supply Hub, a platform that will allow organizations to manage and source much-needed supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health-care workers.

The COVID-19 Supply Hub was built in seven days at a cost of $100,000, with Burnaby-based tech company Traction on Demand Inc. taking the lead on its development.

Suppliers, who must be pre-qualified, can access the platform at gov.bc.ca/supplyhub.

From there, government will let suppliers know what items are needed and can then begin prioritizing thousands of offers and donations coming from organizations.

The province is currently prioritizing items such as gowns, hand sanitizer, face masks and surgical masks, among others, but it will also accept offers from industry for other supplies such as cleaning materials.

The project came together through the Business Council of B.C. and the Vancouver-based Digital Technology Supercluster, the latter of which has $153 million earmarked from Ottawa to stoke private industry and post-secondary collaborations on digital products that can be commercialized.

Sue Paish, CEO of the Digital Technology Supercluster, said her organization was built specifically to identify key players that could tackle endeavours such as this.

“A big problem right off the bat … in a pandemic is getting supplies to the right people at the frontlines,” she told Business in Vancouver.

“Once we identified the problem along with the health system and the government of B.C., it was not hard to identify some potential solution-providers and bring them around the table.”

The Digital Technology Supercluster is now fielding 130 proposals from its members.

The supercluster itself contributed $40,000 to the quick development of the COVID-19 Supply Hub, while Traction on Demand covered $50,000 and San Francisco-based Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) covered $10,000.

Traction on Demand develops software that builds tailored marketing for brands using data gathered by the Salesforce.

Now that the COVID-19 Supply Hub is built, the government’s Provincial Supply Coordination Unit will manage the platform.

“We have been overwhelmed in the most positive way with responses from industry to solve the problems created by the COVID-19 environment,” Paish said.

“I am both impressed but not surprised that the Canadian business community and industry writ large has come forward to identify ways we can help Canada get through this.”

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