SFU alumnus collaborates to create COVID-19-resistant products

August 04, 2020

By Jocelyn Dyck

For SFU alumnus Ravi Bansal-Beech, COVID-19 has been an opportunity to do what she does best—solve problems. Her line of business? High-end fixtures and sanitary ware for the plumbing industry.

Ravi Bansal-Beech

Bansal-Beech, co-founder and COO of Valley Acrylic Bath, has teamed up with engineering researchers at the University of Victoria to create COVID-19-resistant wash basins. This technological project aims to provide safer and more accessible hand washing in various public places throughout the province by developing an antiviral spray to coat surfaces.

Bansal-Beech is never one to sit still, especially when faced with a challenge. When the COVID-19 pandemic first arose, she recalls feeling helpless.

“I was doing plumbing fixtures [such as birthing tubs] for hospitals. But I kept asking myself, ‘What else can I do?’”

She says the plumbing industry is of utmost importance during COVID-19 because it enables people to wash their hands—the primary step for staying safe. Viruses can leave a remnant on most plumbing fixtures—even stainless steel—so she wanted to create an antiviral coating that could repel the coronavirus.   

“There should be portable hand-wash stations at parks and before you enter a building,” she says. “You can’t use hand sanitizer all the time because hand sanitizer is going to create other problems like superbugs later on… It’s fine for short-term but it’s not sustainable.”

Bansal-Beech reached out to her cousin Rishi Gupta, a materials-focused civil engineer who had previously helped create Valley Acrylic’s antibacterial products. Together, they are now testing raw materials to contrive the antiviral coating and develop prototypes.

The new material could be applied to a wide variety of surfaces, either in new or existing facilities such as washrooms, or on handles, shopping carts and high-use countertops. In time, the goal is to manufacture hundreds of viral-resistant basins for strategic installation throughout B.C. and beyond.

Innovation and environmental sustainability are at the heart of Valley Acrylic, a 100-per-cent female-owned, Canadian company based in Mission. The company achieves zero-waste manufacturing while designing stylish sinks and bathtubs for a wide range of customers, including celebrities such as Brad Pitt (for an episode of Celebrity IOU) and the home design series Property Brothers.

“Just because we’re environmentally focused doesn’t mean our products can’t be beautiful,” says Bansal-Beech.

As a business leader with a psychology degree from SFU and an MBA from Duke University, she recognizes the challenge of working with a university, since academic theories don’t necessarily yield viable business products. However, she explains that university-business partnerships are crucial, not just for developing business ideas but for helping academics apply their knowledge to real-life situations.

She fondly recalls her own years at SFU as a momentous time of shaping her “you dream it, we create it” attitude that has become Valley Acrylic’s mantra. During her undergrad, she assumed numerous leadership positions, including president of SFU’s Psychology Student Union, where she created SFU’s first online store.

Through such experiences, she discovered her flair for business and solution-oriented work.

“SFU really taught me about myself. It was such a great experience… University offers you so much if you’re willing to take it.”

Bansal-Beech is always pushing for change—whether that’s protecting people against COVID-19 or creating a more sustainable environment through best practice for the construction industry. She says establishing safe environments for others is especially important to her as a mother.

“I have a daughter. I want her to have clean air, clean water and access to nature—not only for her, but for her colleagues.”