Scottish technology company Intense IT has formed an international collaboration to roll-out a pioneering AI-based solution, with the aim of helping workplaces minimise the transmission of coronavirus.

With seed-funding from Innovate UK, which was obtained with the help of The Data Lab’s External Funding Service, Intense IT has created the WorkSafeAI solution to be used by businesses to decide which prevention measures are most suitable for them, and has linked with a consortium including Quantellia.

The firm said as lockdown begins to ease across Scotland and the UK, organisations are challenged with creating a safe working environment for their employees, adding: "Yet, with Covid-19 a relatively new virus, we are only beginning to grasp its full impact.

"Understanding the ever-changing information is a mammoth task, and how it applies in specific businesses is extremely daunting for leaders."

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It claims WorkSafeAI simulates any combination of mitigation actions, building occupancy and background infection rates, so businesses will know what should work best in their specific situation, before spending on these measures.

It also said business leaders will soon be able to verify the effectiveness of their risk policies by integrating real-time data from sensors, heat-sensitive cameras and other Internet of Things devices.

Robert Walker, of Intense IT said: “The risks to society from the global Covid-19 pandemic and the steps we need to take to live with the disease, are only now being understood. We wanted to play our part in helping to make work space a safe space by modelling epidemiology, infection and transmission risks, and presenting to decision-makers in an actionable way.

“Our partnership with Silicon Valley Decision Intelligence pioneers, Quantellia, allows us to develop this unique approach to risk management for Covid-19, and of course futureproof for further pandemics.

"With this solution we can ensure that leaders’ decisions can be evidence-based and people-focused. This will engage business leaders in the fight against a second or third spike in the coronavirus and the emergence of other epidemics."

He said: “Our consortium is also made up of local, highly skilled SMEs: technical resources from neurodiversity professionals auticon, project management and business analysis specialists Linsandel Consulting and with support from clinical epidemiologist Dr Paul Nelson of Nelus AI.

“As an SME, navigating the complex funding landscape is notoriously difficult with a lot of pressure on making the right decision. Guidance from the External Funding Service at The Data Lab was invaluable.”

Supported by The Data Lab, the innovation centre for data and AI, Intense IT submitted a successful funding application to Innovate UK, to invest in further research and development of commercial opportunities for Decision Intelligence (DI).

Adam Turner, of The Data Lab, said: “The last few months have been challenging for us all as the world grapples with Covid-19 and its impacts on our economy and jobs.

“The WorkSafe AI project will see business leaders making informed data-driven decisions that ensure safety is upheld as our economy restarts – an exciting new tool added to our arsenal in the fight against Covid-19.”

Greggs is still struggling to reach the heady heights of last year even after reopening hundreds of sites across the UK, the baker revealed on Tuesday.

Last week the company only sold around 72% of the pasties, drinks and sandwiches that it did in the same seven days in 2019.

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However, it said it is finding sales encouraging as things slowly get back to normal.
Greggs bosses will hope for even more growth as the business contends with a swing to a major loss.

Last year, the chain made a pre-tax profit of £36.7 million in the first half of the year, but swung to a £65.2 million loss in the six months to July.

Sales across the six months were down 45% to £300.6 million.

This comes despite the fact that life-for-like sales were up by 7.5% in the first nine weeks of the year.

Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: "Following successive years of unbroken growth, Greggs made a great start to 2020, coming into the year with momentum and clear strategic plans.

"The strength of our business model enabled us to secure the liquidity needed to support our business through the current crisis and then to adapt our operation and strategic investment plans in response to the new environment."

The firm said that around three-quarters of its staff have now returned from furlough to offer a limited menu to customers.

The fast-food baker also said it is planning to launch click-and-collect and delivery services across the country to help increase sales.

Greggs reopened 800 of its shops for takeaways on June 18, while the rest of its stores began to gradually get back to work from July 2.

Chiefs have slowed plans to open more shops - a key part of Greggs' growth strategy.

In the first six months the company closed 45 sites while opening only 20, and it expects to open around 60 and close 50 over the rest of the year.

There are 2,025 Greggs bakeries across the UK.

Julie Palmer, a partner at Begbies Traynor, said: "The success of Greggs has been the envy of the high street in recent years; however, even the bakery chain hasn't been immune to the impact of Covid-19, which has forced its stores to close and eaten away at its top line.

"The company has now started reopening stores but, with new social distancing measures having to be implemented and a lack of footfall in town centres, the second half of the year will be an uphill battle."

The chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser has said he expects that Covid-19 will permanently increase sales of Dettol and other cleaning products as the company looks forward to a better-than-expected 2020.

Laxman Narasimhan said lessons from the past show that consumers will incorporate new routines if they keep them up for around two months.

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"We have gone back in time and looked at what we have seen when there have been other outbreaks, like Sars and Mers. And what you see is that there is a step up in consumption - a step up in both penetration, which is sustained, and then frequency of use," he said on a call with reporters on Tuesday morning.

"It won't be at the peak levels that you might see today. But if you compare it to pre-Covid times, we expect that the levels will be higher."

His comments came as the company said 2020 will be better than it had forecast in April as Dettol sales soared.

The consumer goods giant said that sales in its health business, which includes Dettol, increased by 9.3% in the first half of the financial year.

This was despite a fall in sales for Durex due to what Mr Narasimhan called "lower social interactions".

Meanwhile, the hygiene business, which sells Lysol and Finish, grew by 16%. Overall sales were up 11.9% on a like-for-like basis, RB said.

The British-Dutch business has seen a "very strong shift to ecommerce," Mr Narasimhan said.

Online sales have jumped 60% and now make up 12% of the company's revenue.

Mr Narasimhan said: "The first six months of 2020 have been underpinned by resilience, agility and strong execution. I'm incredibly proud of the effort of our people, who have worked tirelessly, while staying safe, with focus and dedication in an environment that's been changing daily.

"We have the largest portfolio of surface disinfectant brands, including Dettol, Lysol and Sagrotan. Our largest brands are trusted by our consumers, as is evident in their performance."

He added: "Our hygiene and base health businesses have both performed well, with strong volume growth in challenging circumstances."

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