Three innovations made possible through partnership

  • Catherine Thompson

    Catherine Thompson

    Programme Manager

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11 Mar 2021

A key focus of the Innovation in Water Challenge is partnerships. We take a look at three innovations that are changing our world and the partnerships that made them possible.

Apple and Corning: Gorilla Glass 

In the lead up to the launch of the iPhone, designers had planned on using plastic screens. Supposedly after prototyping, they realised they needed glass screens to deliver the smooth, tactile touchscreen experience we’re now all used to – whether you use an iPhone or not.

After receiving a call from Apple, the story goes that Corning quickly showed their deep glass expertise, developing Gorilla Glass from 1960s car windshield prototypes which had been used in TVs and laptops – hitting Apple’s tight six-month deadline for launch [1].

The glass screens on iPhones deliver the smooth, tactile touchscreen experience we’re all used to.

Interface, ZSL and Aquafil: Net-Works

Carpet tiles are one of those things you’ve probably never thought that much about. Interface is a leading carpet tile manufacturer, and following an epiphany in 1994, the company has used a collaborative approach to reshaping the company to become sustainable [2].

One of their key initiatives as part of this was the launch of Net-Works. Interface partnered with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) who ran a wide range of conservation projects to collect nylon fishing nets. Aquafil then turns these nets into nylon yarn which is then used by Interface in their carpet tiles. Nylon nets – referred to as “ghost nets” when dumped in the ocean – are the biggest polluter in the ocean, accounting for up to up to 86% of the “great Pacific garbage patch”, an area of plastic accumulation in the north Pacific that is estimated to contain 42,000 tonnes of plastic [3].

The partnership between Interface, ZSL and Aquafil helps reduce this pollution, support coastal communities and provide valuable materials to produce Interface’s carpet tiles.

Nylon nets are the biggest polluter in the ocean, accounting for up to up to 86% of the “great Pacific garbage patch”.

Pile of fishing nets

Pfizer and BioNTech: First approved mRNA-based Vaccine

There’s no doubt that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is changing the world right now, and a host of organisations, collaborators and researchers are behind this breakthrough technology.

But looking at the partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech in detail shows some of the power of this partnership. Pfizer is one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, with manufacturing facilities across the globe and expertise in getting vaccines to market. BioNTech is a little-known German biotech with proprietary mRNA [4] vaccine platforms, developed through years of collaborations with scientists and researchers [5]. Together, they have created a powerhouse that not only developed and received the first MHRA [6] approval for any mRNA vaccine, but are now producing it at scale and delivering it across the globe – despite having one of the most complex cold-chains for any mass-distributed products.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection.

I've had my COVID Vaccine sticker sheet

What is striking about all these innovations is that it is highly unlikely they would have been possible without collaboration, openness, and trust in their partners. Apple without Corning would have brought plastic screens to the iPhone which may have forever changed the trajectory of Apple. Interface without ZSL and Aquafil would have had an idea that ghost nets were a problem but no way to do anything about it. Pfizer without BioNTech would have been a leading pharmaceutical organisation without a vaccine for COVID-19.





[4] mRNA is an abbreviation for messenger ribonucleic acid. Read more about what mRNA vaccines at


[6] Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

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