InnovaTools is a startup based in Vars, Ontario that specializes in niche, innovative products for the construction industry. Co-Founder and CEO, Alexandre Cloutier started the company out of his garage, and has since expanded into a commercial space with a growing team that handles product conceptualization, development, prototyping, and engineering.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Canada sought the help of domestic manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), InnovaTools ventured outside of their industry to develop the Clear Transparent Barrier Mask. This reusable face shield is see-through and enables more effective disinfecting practices than surgical or cloth masks. The mask also creates opportunities of accessibility for individuals that are deaf or hard-of-hearing, as the transparent masks facilitate full facial recognition and lip/speech reading. With a prototype ready to test, the company applied to Innovative Solutions Canada's Testing Stream call for proposals, which was seeking innovations to help combat COVID-19.
Crafting a new test
Once their innovation qualified for ISC funding, InnovaTools partnered with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to test the mask. Since there was no existing standard test for masks made of non-porous material, they hired an independent lab to create one.
Alexandre explained that the results from the first round of testing led them to make crucial adjustments, noting that "like with any research and development, we understood why it didn't perform so well in the first result, so we used those results to improve on the design." In the second round of testing, the mask performed very well, offering a seal around the nose bridge and chin that pushed air from breathing behind the user. This fit controls the air flow and also mitigates condensation build up (fog) in the user's glasses. In addition, the innovation offered a customizable, inclusive fit for users who are unable to use ear loops to wear their masks.
From testing to selling
Since completing their test with the RCMP, InnovaTools has received Health Canada's approval to use their masks to protect against the coronavirus. The company has since been successfully selling their innovation in commercial settings.