The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event that has led many companies and industries to operate in a crisis mode, threatening to bring about another global economic recession.

Nevertheless, all crises present companies with opportunities to gain the trust and respect of their shareholders, consumers, employees, and the public at large. If managed properly, crises can help firms improve their corporate reputation and emerge as industry leaders.

In this regard, instead of turning on the crisis mode for some companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has actually done exactly the opposite- it has put them in an accelerated ‘innovation’ mode.

We decided to use the Commetric COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker to help us understand which industries and companies gained the most traction in the media in relation to their innovation activities during the COVID-19 crisis. Our free tool uses rule-based natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to track more than 450 types of news-reported business events that affect companies and industries during the pandemic.

We analysed media data from thousands of outlets for the period 1 Jan- 31 March 2020, covering most publicly-traded companies in the US, and looked into the media resonance of the various corporate innovation activities that took place in the context of COVID-19, i.e. the amount of media coverage that referenced the companies and their innovation efforts.

Unsurprisingly, Healthcare and Technology took the lead as the most innovative sectors, at least in terms of their media resonance.

In the Healthcare sector, particularly prominent was Johnson & Johnson’s development of a new vaccine for the coronavirus, whose trials were reported to start as early as September 2020. Another highly visible healthcare company was the Dutch molecular diagnostics producer Qiagen, which will receive support by the U.S. Department of Health to develop a new test kit to differentiate the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus from 21 other serious respiratory infections.

Unlike Healthcare, the innovation efforts in the Technology sector would rather fall in the ‘incremental innovation’ category, with companies developing tools or applications, often as part of their current offerings, to help people increase their safety and make the most of the COVID-19 crisis.

Such is Apple’s AI-based app with a screening tool to help people understand COVID-19 symptoms and take proper steps to protect their health, and Microsoft’s Bing web portal to track the spread of the COVID-19.

Many media and video streaming companies, such as Walt Disney and Netflix, introduced innovative changes to their programming schedules to make the most of COVID-19’s impact on people’s media consumption behaviour. Thus, Walt Disney announced it might make the sequel to hit animated film “Frozen” to be had on its streaming platform Disney+ 3 months forward of timetable in the US.

Innovative financial services firms, such as the Indian ICICI Bank, launched WhatsApp banking services to ease banking during the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown, which affected 1.3 billion people in India.

Interestingly enough, some of the sectors that are most impacted by the coronavirus, such as Tourism and Transportation, lag behind in terms of innovation activities.

Using the COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker, we also discovered the types of innovation-related business events that had the greatest share of voice in the media.

The media discussion around Innovation was dominated by news about trials in the healthcare sector, followed by new product launches and new product development.

Check the COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker for more insights into COVID-19’s impact on companies and industries.