The UK reached another milestone in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic this week with the completion of the VentilatorChallengeUK project.
The project, formed in March, was aimed at bringing together companies in engineering and manufacturing to address the anticipated escalation in the COVID-19 crisis by building 14,000 new ventilators. It bought together UK businesses across aerospace, automotive, motorsport and medical to more than double the stocks of ventilators available to the NHS. The last of the devices have now shipped from the manufacturing centres.
Scientific modelling in the early stages of the crisis predicted that the NHS would exceed ventilator capacity during the pandemic. The challenge helped scale up the production of three models (paraPAC, Vivo65 and Nippy4+) and helped guide one newly adapted model, the Penlon ESO 2, all the way through regulatory approval.
Seven new large-scale facilities were established at Airbus AMRC Cymru in Broughton, GKN Aerospace in Luton and Cowes, McLaren in Woking, Rolls Royce in Filton, STI in Hook and Ford in Dagenham.
In spite of the challenges the consortium faced with global competition for parts (they acquired around 42 million components from 22 countries), ventilator peak production surpassed 400 devices in a single day.
The Penlon ventilator, which was newly adapted for the challenge, is now available for export abroad. Learning from their experiences of the Ventilator Challenge, Penlon is now setting up a new line aimed at exporting across the world.
Dr Tom Clutton-Brock, Director of the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre which tested the Ventilator Challenge devices, said:
"Designing, manufacturing and testing ventilators usually takes years. So it’s outstanding the progress which has been made in a space of months. Having tested all of these devices, it’s impressive that several new models met the regulator’s requirements. These models would all have been clinically usable as pandemic ventilators and could have supported large numbers of critically ill patients.The NHS now has a readily available supply of devices that will enable the health service to have resilience of supply for possible future pandemics."
In a government press release, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“The Ventilator Challenge has proven just how much Britain can achieve when confronted with a difficult problem – bringing together the best minds in manufacturing, innovation and design. Thanks to these efforts, everyone who needed a ventilator has had access to one, and the NHS has the vital machines it needs to continue providing life-saving support against this deadly virus."
During the coronavirus crisis, the Morson Maker Space facility at the University of Salford also rose to the challenge of helping out children's charity the Seashell Trust by solving PPE challenges through innovation and technology.
On behalf of all at Morson, we would like to thank the companies involved in the UK Ventilator Challange for their work saving lives.