How to build a collaboration across countries to combat COVID and create sustainable jobs?

In the East African country of Uganda, a disposable mask costs one dollar which is almost the same amount of daily cost for food, making the living conditions severe for people during the Covid-19 crisis. To overcome the shortage of masks in Uganda, a TMC project team came up with the development of a machine that is suitable for making reusable mouthpieces from recycled plastic. To know more, you can read about the project in this Eindhoven Dagblad article (in Dutch) or this Innovation Origins article (in English).

TMC works together with Eco Brixs, a NGO association focused on the recycling of plastic waste in Uganda. Recently, the project received an SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant from the Dutch government. Through this way of cooperation, TMC expects to not only combat the corona crisis in Uganda, but also contribute to the local employment, as jobs will be added for collecting the plastic waste and working with machines.

During the session, Eco Brixs founder - Andy Bownds and Project Leader - Antonio Garcia Rubio, will recount how the project got started, what are the major technical and social challenges, how to apply and win an innovation grant from SBIR (on their first try ever) and what bringing this project to reality has taught them.

Andy Bownds

After working all his professional life in the charity sector in London, Andy moved to Uganda in 2015 to help establish the Uganda Marathon Foundation. After seeing the negative impact of plastic waste in Uganda he started to research possible solutions and connect with industry players before establishing Masaka Recycling Initiative, which over just two years, has grown into Eco Brixs (link). Prior to life in Uganda, Andy worked at management level for 5 years with London Cyrenians and graduated with BA Hons from Winchester University.

Outside of Eco Brixs, Andy is a professional clown, Nile beer drinker and father to 2 cats. He is also working on his first dystopian novel which, unsurprisingly, involves plastic.


Antonio Garcia Rubio

Originally from Spain, Antonio has lived in the Eindhoven for several years now. Originally trained as a Mechanical and Industrial Engineer (Universidad de Málaga and Universidad de Salamanca), he has used his knowledge in established companies like ASML, VDL and also in startups like Carbyon, in roles ranging from Design Engineer to System Architect.

Together with the take-off of COVID, Antonio’s entrepreneurial spirit surfaced and quickly organized 100+ engineers with his employer, TMC, to get ideas flowing on how to combat the virus.The Uganda Mouthmask project, born out of all that work, has become one of TMC’s flagship initiatives.


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