Some of the world’s leading coatings specialists gathered virtually at the Royal Society of Chemistry to discuss how special surface technologies could be used to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 130 academics, technical industry specialists and representatives of major healthcare and transport organisations remotely gathered at the event hosted in collaboration with the British Coatings Federation, the UK Trade Association representing paints, coatings, printing inks and wallcoverings manufacturers and suppliers in the UK. The webinar set out to identify the challenges and share knowledge on techniques that could prevent the spread of infection, both in the present and the future.

Anti-viral coatings contain agents that prevent microorganisms growing on the surfaces of materials, and are increasingly being researched for potential use in clinics, industry and domestic environments. As well as technical challenges, there are regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome before these materials could be deployed in public spaces.

Helen Pain, Acting CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “Bringing together the biggest and brightest names in materials research to tackle this issue is of paramount importance, especially now, and we are proud to be able to facilitate this level of discussion. While we already have a number of technologies and techniques at our disposal, there is a clear need to accelerate research output and this meeting represented a crucial step towards advancing that.”

“It’s crucial that the direction taken from here is representative of the diverse range of views and experience from across the anti-viral community, which is why we are calling on anyone with relevant insights to join our Surface Coatings Interest Group as we further these discussions.”

The event was led by Stuart Clarke, Professor of Surface Science at Cambridge University and Chair of the Technical Committee of the Surface Coatings Interest Group, and hosted by Tom Bowtell, CEO of the British Coatings Federation.

Professor Clarke said: “There is an acute need to provide new information and insight about anti-viral surfaces and coatings in the current climate, particularly to confirm antiviral behaviour and get appropriate products to market and into use promptly.

“The Surface Coatings Group is trying to connect individuals and organisations with relevant products to specialised anti-viral testing facilities. In the longer term, activities may centre on informed reformulation of products and even longer-term exploration of new anti-viral approaches.”

Tom Bowtell, CEO of the British Coatings Federation, said: “There has been a terrific response from our members, many of whom have products or technologies with the potential to address urgent needs in the current crisis.

“Tackling regulatory hurdles will be one of the major challenges for such bio-active technologies, and our regulatory affairs team will be actively engaging with the relevant authorities at UK and EU level to support the efforts of companies as an urgent priority.”

Advanced discussions are now continuing on a dedicated collaborative Slack platform, which remains open to new participants on request to the group secretary.

The Surface Coatings Group and British Coatings Federation (BCF) will continue to facilitate the connection of academic and industrial organisations to contribute to this important work.