1.4 Center of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials
The current COVID-19 pandemic caught Canada on a flat foot. The country did not have sufficient local manufacturing capability nor testing and validation facilities to respond quickly when supply chains across the world shut down. In this talk, I will describe one of Canada’s most comprehensive responses in assisting local manufacturing and establishment of a test facility that has enabled local manufacturers of apparel, automotive components, and construction to pivot to the manufacture of personnel protective equipment (PPE). In assisting these companies, broad outlines of an integrated research and development program were realized, which led to the establishment of the Center of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials (CEPEM) as a one of a kind facility in Canada. The COVID pandemic and its aftermath have significantly changed how PPEs are used. These changes in use call for a significant redesign of PPEs as well as the development of new materials and manufacturing processes suited for further use cases. There is also a need for the development of specific and custom standards for the evaluation of PPEs in these settings. Finally, natural and sustainable materials need to be incorporated into PPEs instead of fossil fuel-derived materials in order to reduce the impact of their increased use. All of these considerations are interrelated, and a comprehensive research program is required to address all aspects of this problem. In this talk, I will provide some examples of such an integrated approach to the development of PPEs.