This online marketplace could help get PPE in the hands of healthcare workers

Rheaply connects organizations buying and selling equipment.

A Chicago tech company whose online marketplace helps find a new life for research equipment has created a new platform to help connect healthcare workers with organizations that have surplus medical supplies and personal protective equipment. More on Rheaply, after today’s tech headlines…

Today’s headlines:

🔋 FUEL CELLS: Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory are studying alternatives to platinum catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells. The high cost of the platinum catalysts currently drives up the price of hydrogen fuel technology and makes it less marketable commercially. (Argonne National Laboratory)

🚗 ELECTRIC VEHICLES: Safety certification company UL, based in Northbrook, Illinois, has certified its first wireless electric vehicle power transfer system. The technology from Lumen Group transfers power via a ground pad rather than a charging cord… General Motors and LG Chem begin construction on Ultimum Cells, joint venture in Lordstown, Ohio, to produce lithium ion batteries for EVs. (news release, Forbes)

💧 WATER: Zionsville, Indiana-based 120Water has formed a partner program to create solutions for clean, safe drinking water. The program already has brought on some Midwest companies offering technologies advancing the mission. (news release)

💻 EVENT: The fifth annual FWD digital innovation summit in Chicago will be held online on June 4. This year’s theme is “The Age of Resilience.” (FWD20)

Now more on Rheaply (a combination of “research” and “cheaply”), which incorporated in 2016 and launched its first product in 2017: an online classified marketplace for researchers to buy, sell, trade, and donate equipment and supplies. Last month, it launched its new product, the Emergency Resource Exchange. The free platform connects first responders and healthcare professionals with personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

The problem: Organizations such as universities purchase a lot of supplies, but there are often leftovers. Plus, certain equipment is only useful to the organization until something newer and better comes out. The supplies and old equipment often are discarded even though they have usable life in other applications. That can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in discarded equipment – such as microscopes or unused chemicals – that someone else could use.

What it does: The Asset Exchange Manager allows entire organizations, departments, or individuals to connect with people who could use their unwanted assets. “The goal is to empower these large organizations to be more efficient with their resources,” said Garr Punnett, Rheaply chief of staff & sustainability. “There is a degree of waste that has been built into scaling an organization. We’re trying to empower them to think differently about the items that they buy and throw away.”

The impact: Rheaply extends the usable life of products and prevents equipment from being disposed in landfills or prematurely scrapped. “If we can extend the use of the items we see around us, it will reduce the carbon emissions that an organization produces… Ultimately, that’s the benefit to sharing, the circular economy, and sustainability,” Punnett said. Rheaply also saves organizations money by reducing procurement and storage costs.

The backstory: Garry Cooper was a postdoc student at Northwestern University and thought there had to be a better, more sustainable way to handle the leftover research chemicals and equipment. He partnered with Tyler Skelton and Peter Tucker to build a platform to facilitate equipment exchanges among the research community.

(Cooper, Tucker and Skelton [back row] with the Rheaply team)
What’s next: Rheaply started by targeting the academic sector and university research equipment, but interest is expanding into other sectors. Now, the approximately two dozen businesses using the platform include pharma companies, academic organizations, and tech companies; manufacturing and retail businesses also are showing interest in coming on board.

I want to hear about other companies that are applying technology to reduce waste and boost sustainability. If you work for one or know of one, let me know so I can feature it in a future newsletter. Email or connect on Twitter @centereddottech.

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