Gunnar Johanson, Senior Professor and Researcher and Urban Svedberg, Senior Researcher are working at the institute of Environmental Medicine,Unit of Integrative Toxicology at Karolinska Institutet. Gunnar and his team aim to reduce workers´ exposure to harmful volatiles emitted from goods.
Gunnar and Urban are receiving support from KI Innovations START team and we asked them a few questions about the journey and learnings so far and the future plans for the project.
Provide a short summary of the project that you intend to create impact from.
Globally, an estimated 250 million shipping container are unstuffed every year, amounting to a 280,000-man years. Our research shows that about 1 out 8 arrive to the destination with levels of harmful volatiles above accepted occupational exposure limits. Pre-ventilation of shipping containers prior to unstuffing reduce workers´ exposure to harmful volatiles emitted from goods. Our unique technique and equipment reduce exposure by 80-90% within one hour of ventilation. UK
Who is the future user of the technique?
The infrastructure and logistics to handle containerized goods are rapidly expanding and 2021 is expected to be a record year with 25 finished projects in Sweden. We anticipate that large global importers of consumer goods will soon ensure that their containers are properly pre-ventilated, if needed, before workers are allowed inside. Hence, we foresee that distribution centers (DC) that receive containers are equipped with pre-ventilation equipment in order to provide this service. It is also in the interest of the DCs themselves to have this equipment to provide protection for the workers when suspicion arises that a container is contaminated. Another exposed group are customs and food inspectorate officers that crawl into unstuffed containers for inspection. Particularly food containers are often treated with highly toxic fumigants.
What is the current status of your project from an impact creation point of view?
We have delivered to our first two customers in Sweden and received interest from a large global producer of consumer goods who is planning to test run the equipment in an Asian country. Several inquiries from importers in Sweden, a fumigation company, and, an inquiry for third-party distribution from a fumigation company in EU country.
What steps have you taken towards impact creation through commercialization?
We anticipate making an exit in 3-5 years and have had initial communication with an investor. We are seeking strategic partnership for technical and market collaboration. An experienced professional marketing consultant have been tied to the company. We have a web page where our company is presented www.evaqvent.com. We have given a well-attended (120 persons) webinar in English where representatives from Factories Inspectorates and labor unions from several countries attended besides several private companies. An upgrade LinkedIn account has proved to be useful to identify potential customers on a global arena.
We also have a patent application pending.
What are your key learnings so far in relation to impact creation and commercialization?
It is difficult to be the first on the market and create a demand for a new product. It is important to connect with competence within marketing on several levels. Starting a company is time-consuming but inspiring when positive results are obtained.