COVID-19 response: using Assistive Technology learnings to seek emerging market ventilation solutions

Global Disability Innovation Hub
March 19, 2020

Hospitals around the world are grappling with COVID-19, with demand for equipment beginning to outstrip resource. While engineering firms explore options to accelerate production of state-of-the-art ventilators, the delivery timescales are simply too long to meet current need.

To fill this gap, the GDI Hub and University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Healthcare Engineering and UCL-UCLH Biomedical Research Centre have joined forces with DFID funded Frontier Technologies Hub to find Rapidly Manufactured Ventilation Systems (RMVS) in emerging markets. The aim is to harness global entrepreneurship to amplify regional specific solutions in order to meet new global challenges within limited time frames.

The problems of Assistive Technology provision are very similar to that we now see in the ventilator challenge. A lack of affordable, quality products, trained personnel, manufacturing, production and global suppliers. We believe that by mimicking learnings from the GDI Hub led and UK Aid funded AT2030 programme, and working across multi-disciplinary networks, we can bridge sectors and rapidly share expertise to catapult innovations through the product development cycle.

There are two distinct areas to this innovative work;

  • A global call to identify technologies; with a focus on innovators from emerging markets
  • A series of design and refine sprints; to build ventilator prototypes, which can be made by manufacturers across the world

Within hours of launching, we received support from around the world. The first design and refine sprint is underway (as of 19th March), bringing together engineering and clinical expertise, computer scientists, product developers and designers, from the academic, business and medical world.

We believe that by engaging with global innovators, there is an opportunity to amplify brilliant examples of entrepreneurship and creative thinking, scaling up regional specific solutions to meet demand.

The call for ventilator innovations closed on Tuesday 24th March. Further design and refine sprints will follow.

By building on the Assistive Technology approach, supported by our networks, partners and kind offers of expertise, we drive forward innovation in this time of need.