The UPC is contributing to the fight against COVID-19 with several research projects and 3D printing of medical supplies

Cooperation to mitigate the effects

The UPC is providing 145,000 euros in funding to support 20 local- and international-scale cooperation projects to tackle the COVID-19 health emergency. These 20 projects, managed by the Centre for Development Cooperation (CCD), are the result of two special calls for applications for financial support aimed at research and service staff that the university.

A hackathon from the sofa...

On 4 April the Hackers@UPC student association held a 12-hour online hackathon. Under the motto “Hack from home” the event gave students the opportunity to develop technology for COVID-19 or a different subject, whether it was creating a game, a machine learning model or a bot (a software application that performs repetitive tasks over the Internet). The purpose of the hackathon is to turn technology ideas into reality. Participants also got the chance to attend online talks.

Another project by Hackers@UPC is Advent of Corona, where everyone is invited to solve a new programming challenge every day at

...and other initiatives of the schools:

In response to the COVID-19 health emergency, UPC research groups and centres are working on several scientific projects to tackle the spread of the virus. Additionally, a number of professors, researchers and students are sharing their knowledge and 3D-printing equipment to make masks, respirators and face shields for hospitals.

Apr 09, 2020

A team from the Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group (BIOCOM-SC) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) and the Comparative Medicine and Bioimage Centre of Catalonia (CMCiB) of the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP) has developed a mathematical model to monitor the spread of COVID-19 with the support of La Caixa Foundation.

The report that they have produced for the European Union Strategy Office using the model is updated every day and includes predictions for Catalonia, Spain and the European Union. The model also serves to analyse the efficiency of the measures being implemented in several countries. Daniel López Codina and Clara Prats are leading the study.

Support to WHO

The UPC’s Department of Network Engineering and the Department of Computer Architecture are providing technical support to the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement the software Go.Data in Catalonia. It is a tool for collecting field data during public health emergencies and, in this case, COVID-19.

Go.Data functions serve to investigate confirmed cases, monitor contacts, reconstruct transmission chains and design questionnaires for case investigation. It is a multilingual and flexible tool, with multiple functions for importing and exporting data, that provides valuable information to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and adapt the response of healthcare institutions in all the scenarios.

In Catalonia, the platform, promoted by UPC researchers and the spin-off Alteraid—incubated at the University—is supporting the installation of the WHO software by providing a test server for app testing and training, and offering technical support for related initiatives being launched by the Catalan Ministry of Health. The UPC researchers working there are Jesús Alcober, Juan López, Toni Oller, Joaquim Puig and Dolors Royo.

Reusable medical masks

A team of researchers from the UPC in Terrassa, led by Mònica Ardanuy, is advising the Ministry of Health of the Government of Catalonia on the technical requirements for making safe reusable medical masks.

Researchers also advise against homemade masks and, in case of extreme need, they suggest making effective non-clinical temporary masks with water-resistant fabrics, made of hydrophobic fibres or fibres with less water absorption (such as polyester or polypropylene), lightweight fabrics with a high specific surface area and high filtration capacity.

The supercomputer in the fight against the virus

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) is using the MareNostrum supercomputer in several research projects to fight COVID-19, such as intelligent drug design based on virus genome information or the creation of a vaccine.

The huge computing power of the supercomputer is also being used to help researchers to understand the epidemic from a genomic point of view: how it evolves, how it changes or how it is transmitted between species, which is vital for predicting future episodes. There are several scientific institutions and companies participating in these studies, which would advance much slower and would be much more complicate without the supercomputer.


3D printing of medical supplies

The CIM-UPC, a leading 3D printing and digital manufacturing centre, is working on several projects to help in supplying hospitals with ventilators for COVID-19 patients. One of these projects is being developed in collaboration with the Leitat Technological Centre and the Hospital Parc Taulí in Sabadell.

It is already redirecting the additive manufacturing equipment and all the 3D printers of its pilot plant to produce the breathing tube connectors ordered by Leitat.

Additionally, the CIM-UPC and its spin-off BCN3D Technologies have joined the collaborative project, a platform for coordinating 3D printing of medical equipment that brings together companies, technology centres, makers, entrepreneurs and digital fab labs from Barcelona. In fact, it has already started sending equipment to hospitals.

The CIM has also created a 3D-printed door opener to prevent you from touching risky surfaces with your hands. This hands-free opener, which can be used on all kinds of door handles, was conceived to be easily made on any home 3D printer and fastened with just three flanges, as you can see in this video.

On the UPC’s Baix Llobregat Campus in Castelldefels, the digital manufacturing laboratory-workshop Tinkerers Fab Lab, located in the facilities of the Parc UPC, is also collaborating with makers in manufacturing face shields for healthcare staff.

What happens when you sneeze

Researchers from the International Centre for Numerical Methods in Engineering (CIMNE) have simulated the flow of virus after sneezing using computational fluid dynamics models coupled with particle-based models. This study is being carried out in cooperation with George Mason University in the United States.

The Multimedia Applications and ICTs Laboratory has created a resource, validated by an external team of healthcare professionals, for helping people to understand what COVID-19 is.

Virtual Platform

The UPC has also launched, through the Innovation and Technology Centre Foundation (CIT UPC), a virtual platform to cope with the demand for technology from organisations, healthcare professionals and companies, and to offer technological solutions and capabilities from UPC research centres. It aims to provide a quick and efficient response to the challenges and needs during the current COVID-19 crisis. For further information, click on the following link.

Research groups helping to fight COVID-19
The University is also exploring the possibility that other research groups, considering their research area, start developing ways of collaborating with health authorities to help in developing technology to face the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition, the University has submitted several proposals for research calls, such as the one recently issued by the Carlos III Health Institute.

Increased use of the Atenea virtual campus

University activity at the UPC continues as normal online. In this new context, the UPC has experienced a significant increase in the demand for access to the Atenea virtual campus. The platform, which typically sees around 3,000 concurrent users, with peaks below 4,000, has now risen to over 5,000 concurrent users, hitting a peak of 6,400 sessions at the end of March.