Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Microsoft are among 14 companies joining together to begin production of thousands of ventilators this week to help save the lives of patients with Covid-19.
A consortium of manufacturers is working together to fulfil an order from the government for 10,000 ventilators after ministers called on companies to join a nationwide effort.
The UK currently has just over 8,000 of the vital medical devices – far short of the tens of thousands expected to be needed when the pandemic reaches its peak over the coming days and weeks.
The Ventilator Challenge UK consortium will produce two types of ventilator. One is a slight update to an existing design by Oxfordshire-based firm Penlon, aimed at speeding up the assembly process. The second is a device called the ParaPac ventilator by Luton-based Smiths Medical
Among the firms involved are Ford, GKN Aerospace, Inspiration Healthcare, Meggitt, Renishaw, Siemens, Thales, Ultra Electronics and Unilever.
Formula One teams Haas F1, Red Bull Racing, Racing Point, Renault Sport Racing, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams, are also on board.
More than 3,000 firms have offered to help with ventilator production, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said.
“This consortium has brought together the very best of British engineering and manufacturing,” Mr Zahawi said.
“It will be key in our efforts to ramp up ventilator capacity and overcome coronavirus. Over the coming weeks I will be working closely with the consortium as part of our shared ambition to protect our NHS and save lives.”
Vacuum-cleaner maker Dyson announced last week that it plans to make a further 10,000 ventilators to its own new design known as CoVent, while defence firm Babcock is developing another separate design.
The government caused controversy last week after claiming that the UK had not taken part in an EU procurement process for thousands of ventilators due to a “communication error”. Ministers had earlier said the reason was because the UK was no longer part of the EU, even though the UK had been invited to join.
The Ventilator Challenge UK consortium said it has taken about a week to meet exacting specifications developed by clinicians for a rapidly manufactured ventilator system.
On Monday, the consortium said it has received a formal order for 10,000 devices and could produce more, if needed.
Dick Elsy, leading the consortium, said it brought together firms well used to solving problems, adding “this project is no different”.
“They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators and combat a virus that is affecting people in many countries,” he added.
“I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives.”
Ventilators are crucial equipment for patients suffering the most severe effects of the coronavirus. The machines take over a sufferer’s breathing function, pushing air into the lungs and keeping them alive for longer as their body fights the infection.
Additional reporting by PA