Using innovation to save lives and alleviate suffering.

Cold chain indicators

Cold chain indicators
  • @ Marpe Tanaka

    @ Marpe Tanaka
  • @ Marpe Tanaka

    @ Marpe Tanaka
  • © ACREO

    © ACREO
  • © ACREO

    © ACREO
  • © ACREO

    © ACREO

The cold chain process ensures that vaccines, medicines and laboratory products are not exposed to too high or too low temperatures. The cold chain process includes day-to-day real time monitoring and reporting, active and passive cooling equipment, stock management and different actors involved in information exchange and decision making. Together with Operational Centre Amsterdam’s Logistic Department, MSF Sweden Innovation Unit has explored different alternatives and solutions that can improve the cold chain process today and tomorrow. In order to identify the best and most sustainable way forward we have mapped and analysed the cold chain process, from the manufacturers, central storage in Amsterdam to the different user scenarios in field.

After being awarded with a Vinnova grant, we are working closely with Delft University of Technology, the ICT research institute ACREO and the printed electronics network PEA to develop a cold chain time temperature indicator and a decision making matrix based on several usability studies. The upcoming field tests of the technology can represent a large leap in cold chain quality. Our aim is to provide MSF field staff and staff across the globe related to cold chain, an intuitive and accurate assurance of the product’s quality without need for exhaustive training, thereby empowering the end-user in the field to make faster decisions about if the can or cannot use the thermosensitive product. We expect this proof of technology to bring MSF advocacy closer to pharmaceutical partners, by encouraging them to provide more specific thermostability data.

Our indicator:

  • Has an intuitive and irreversible display that displays quality information at the first glance
  • Tracks complete cold chain process because it is attached to secondary level packaging
  • Is digital and programmable to specific stability curves and easy read out


Initiation Development Implementation
Completed Ongoing Upcoming
Extensive mapping of the cold chain process and analysis of the different needs, requirements, steps, stakeholders, that in its turn generated possible solutions and concepts that addresses immediate as well as more long term perspectives. Design and legal support to the development of a prototype of a printed electronics (PE) based indicator. Field usability studies. Support in grant writing and participation in MSF Scientific days and other events.

Case Owner:

Operational Centre Amsterdam, Logistics Department


  • ACREO, Norrköping, Sweden
  • Beneli, Helsingborg, Sweden
  • Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), Delft, The Netherlands
  • Paula Eninge, Advokatfirman Eninge, Karlskrona, Sweden


  • MSF Project Report – Cold Chain Indicator
  • Barain, M. 2014. Monitoring cold chain items in the humanitarian aid context. Master Thesis, Delft University of Technology.
  • Lucy&fer, 2015. Final report, Joint Master Project, Delft University of Technology.


MSF Sweden Innovation Unit – Cold Chain Indicator project demonstration from Louis Potter on Vimeo.

This video is part of an F1000Research channel that includes posters, slides and videos from the MSF Scientific Days in London, May 20-21, 2016. To see more please visit:


External financial support provided by Postkodlotteriet and VINNOVA.