Coronavirus: Mercedes F1 team develops medical equipment

30 March 2020

Breathing equipment developed by the Mercedes Formula One team will be deployed to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The breathing aid, known as a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) was developed in collaboration with medical engineers at University College London (UCL) and clinicians at University College London Hospitals (UCLH).

The organisations reverse-engineered a CPAP device, which has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to help Covid-19 patients to breathe.

It took the organisations less than 100 hours from the initial meeting to manufacturing the first device, which has been approved for use in the NHS. 

“One hundred devices are to be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials, with rapid roll-out to hospitals around the country ahead of the predicted surge in Covid-19 hospital admissions,” Mercedes said. 

Professor Tim Baker at UCL Mechanical Engineering said: “Given the urgent need, we are thankful that we were able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.

“From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analysing an off-patent device. Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.”

The machines were developed as part of “Project Pitlane”, a collective of UK-based Formula One teams that are using their technology arms to respond to the UK government’s call for assistance in manufacturing medical devices. 

The collective will “pool the resources and capabilities” of teams, focusing on rapid design, prototype manufacture, test and skilled assembly. 

Last week, Dyson announced it was preparing to make 10,000 ventilators to support hospitals. 

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove admitted there had been “communication confusion” over the UK’s involvement in the EU’s joint procurement scheme for ventilators. 

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Gove said: “There was some confusion over our involvement in that scheme.

“I've talked to senior figures in the NHS and they've reassured me that there is nothing that we can't do as an independent nation that being part of that scheme would have allowed us to do.”

Previously a spokesperson for Number 10 Downing Street said officials “did not get emails inviting the UK to join the EU scheme”.

Separately, trade group Make it British has criticised the UK government for “dragging its heels” on securing PPE for NHS staff

Kate Hills, founder of Make it British, told the BBC the government does not have the expertise it needs to source the products from UK firms because it is so used to importing goods from overseas.

“Everyone in the whole world is looking for the PPE. We need to look at local suppliers and mobilise supply here,” she said. 

Firms including H&M and Gucci are utilising their supply chains to develop crucial personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and overalls.

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