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On Monday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on UK manufacturers to help the country step up production of vital medical equipment, such as ventilators. He set the ambition for industry to manufacture as many new ventilators as possible, so we can all help the most vulnerable and our NHS. Firms were asked to help by offering skills and expertise as well as manufacturing the components themselves. Businesses can get involved in any part of the process: design, procurement, assembly, testing, and shipping.

The government is looking for businesses who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the UK as part of its response to COVID-19.

As well as manufacturers, the Government is looking for businesses with the following skills:

  • design/specification
  • rapid prototyping
  • contract/product assembly
  • certification/regulation/testing
  • logistics
  • medical training

In addition to the PM’s briefing, the call has gone out from Government for anyone who supplies ventilator equipment to step forward. There is also a further challenge to the wider engineering and manufacturing community to fast-track a simpler ventilator system.

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVM Catapult) is closely involved in the discussions with Government to support rapid progress on this vital challenge. It says that it understands five design companies, with a medical equipment track record, are now working on five specifications, with clinical input. These specifications will then be reviewed by a group at PA Consulting, which is acting as project manager for this challenge and that the five specifications will be down-selected to one or more key contenders. This will then be the opportunity for the engineering community to look at a specification.

Meanwhile, the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are asking prospective companies to log their interest in helping via a web site (https://ventilator.herokuapp.com/).

The site asks them to provide some basic information on their capabilities and what resources they might be able to provide to help the country meet the urgent need for ventilators. A triage system is being developed to look at the offers of capability against the task. Clearly those already in the medical devices space will be in a position to respond but HVM Catapult has said that from the contacts it has had, there is a substantial pent up offer of help from the broader manufacturing community and the major industrial companies have been approached directly to help, most likely as system integrators.

Also, Dick Elsy, Chief Executive Officer of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, has announced that he will defer his planned retirement to support the manufacturing sector’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. He had announced in January that he would retire from the HVM Catapult in August this year. On Tuesday, in response to challenges UK manufacturers will face during the coronavirus outbreak, he confirmed he would defer his retirement to support the national response to the virus.

He said: “Coronavirus presents immense challenges for the UK’s manufacturers. In the short term they will be called on to step up to supply the nation’s needs at an extraordinary moment in our history. Looking further ahead, they will need to be strong to weather the shock that the virus has given our economy. I want to play my full part in mobilising the outstanding resources of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to underpin their success until the situation stabilises and I can hand over to a successor.”

It has also been reported in the main stream media that an aerospace consortium led by Bournemouth based Meggitt plc and including GKN Aerospace, Renishaw, Airbus and Thales, has stepped up to help, as well as Rolls-Royce and JCB.

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