Creative Destruction Lab launches a new startup program dedicated to COVID-19 response

Darrell Etherington

Global academic science and tech startup accelerator program Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is adding a dedicated stream to its existing areas of focus, which include AI, health sciences, space, quantum computing, blockchain, energy and oceans. The new addition is a timely one: CDL Recovery, which is designed to help turn science and research work into scalable products and services to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of both its effects on public health and the economy.

CDL's model for helping startups move from concept to product is fairly unique, and potentially uniquely well-suited to addressing new needs that emerge as a result of how the world is changing in response to the novel coronavirus. Many of the efforts to address needs both in terms of therapeutics and in medical hardware to help shore up shortages are originating at schools and universities around the world, and CDL's expertise heavily favors moving deep tech and hard science from inside the research lab to the market.

The program will be aimed at helping usher innovations from innovation to product in key areas, including around diagnostic testing, vaccine development, remote care and telemedicine, as well as in areas of economic support like virtual work, talent re-training, remote equipment operation, automation and food production and supply. CDL founder and University of Toronto professor Ajay Agrawal said in a blog post about the new program that many have suggested there's a need "to assume a wartime footing in response to COVID-19," and that's one of the aims of the program.

It's definitely true that crises like the one we face currently have a way of decreasing the turnaround time from research to development and deployment. And already, CDL's program is designed from the ground-up to try to accelerate the pace at which that happens, working with academic institutions around the world, including the University of Oxford, HEC Paris, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of British Columbia, HEC Montreal, the University of Calgary and Dalhousie University, as well as the University of Toronto. Teams that are approved to join take part in a series of sessions that set objectives, and then measure their progress, guided by mentors, including the founders and executives of world-leading companies and institutions.

The CDL Recovery program will follow the same structure as its standard streams, but will be done at twice the pace in order to expedite the results. Applications are open now, and the program is available at no cost, and without any equity taken by any of the program operators.