Innovation in a time of crisis: Entrepreneurship in the COVID-19 Era

March 15, 2021

There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit both individuals and businesses hard around the world. And yet, as the challenges associated with the pandemic continue to mount, there is no shortage of innovative entrepreneurs who have stepped up to help.

As healthcare needs intensified, innovators from various sectors around the world began ramping up efforts to develop vaccines and treatments. Shortages in essential products like hand sanitizer, ventilators, and PPE motivated companies to reorient to meet the needs for these items and led to a huge increase in entrepreneurial activity. At the same time, supply and demand patterns were disrupted overnight, creating significant challenges, but also providing new opportunities for innovation.

Finding opportunities: Agility and resourcefulness is crucial

Companies and individuals across the world have rallied to respond to this crisis, devising new ideas to tackle existing and emerging needs that were being insufficiently addressed. Some fresh-faced entrepreneurs and start-ups have been more opportunistic during the pandemic, pivoting their businesses and existing systems to meet unfulfilled needs. From small businesses producing and selling face masks and shields to local car services turning into grocery delivery companies, the nature of innovation – while sometimes incremental – has been essential for adapting to the “new normal.”

We’re not only seeing this agility and resourcefulness in newborn entrepreneurs and small businesses – many large scale operations have responded to the crisis by engaging in new activities as well. Distilleries in the United States, Canada and Australia started to produce hand sanitizers. Automotive companies pivoted manufacturing to much-needed ventilators, and energy companies worked on refurbishing old ventilators. And fashion houses both big and small produced protective gear, gowns, and other supplies for hospitals and masks for the general population.

Changing perspective and a foundation for the future

In recent years, entrepreneurship has become more and more associated with stereotypical high-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs – but it’s almost certain that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on how entrepreneurship is perceived as a job choice in the future.

While crisis sets the stage for innovation and opportunity, actions taken during the last 12 months have turned those once labeled as risk-takers into creative problem solvers. The ingenuity, citizenship, and resourcefulness that we’ve seen from individuals and companies big and small is driving a new wave of socially aware entrepreneurship that will continue for years to come.  

Throughout history, crises have been pivotal in developing our societies, and the present is no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to more entrepreneurial activity. While we can’t predict the future, one thing is certain: entrepreneurs will continue to rise to the challenge.

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