LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus information for UK manufacturers

Posted on 17 Mar 2020 by Daniel Kirmatzis

This page will provide constant updates on news that affects manufacturers. Please check back regularly as we will be updating it regularly over the coming days and weeks.

This page is for news updates – to make contact with manufacturers who are pitching in to help meet the medical demands posed by Covid-19, please visit the Coronavirus 2020 page of The Manufacturer Community website.

11 May Tell us how you plan to restart your operations

As the UK government prepares to get businesses back to work we’d like to hear how you are preparing to reopen your business or share advice of how you have remained opened during the lockdown.

Please consider the following when replying:

  1. What measures have you put in place to ensure a safe return to work?
  2. How is your workforce responding to these measures?
  3. How have these measures changed your operations?
  4. What practical advice can you offer other businesses e.g. did you buy special protective equipment for your workers and where from?
  5. What long-term changes to your business are you expecting as a result of the lockdown?

Either share your thoughts on The Manufacturer Community here or email [email protected]

28 April Government will continue to support eleven devices in its Ventilator Challenge

‘Following a review by an expert panel of clinicians, including NHS clinicians and the regulator, the MHRA, the Government will be ending support for four devices in the Ventilator Challenge. Recognising the Government’s need to create effective ventilators at pace, the panel concluded that other designs could better meet the clinical needs of the NHS at this time.

The UK now has 10,900 mechanical invasive ventilators available to the NHS, as well as 4,300 non-invasive devices.

The Government recently announced that 15,000 Penlon Prima ESO2 ventilators have been ordered, the first newly-adapted device to receive regulatory approval in the Ventilator Challenge, with production set to ramp up in the coming weeks. Smiths paraPAC ventilators, an existing device, are also being manufactured at speed and at scale as part of the Ventilator Challenge.

Following the recommendations of the expert panel, the Government will continue to provide support to four devices, as well the Penlon and paraPAC. They are scaling up production of existing Breas Medical devices, the Nippy 4+ & Vivo65, with the first units expected next month. In addition, two devices are subject to ongoing review to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of the NHS:

  • Zephyr Plus, made by Babcock
  • Gemini, made by OES Medical

Five other devices will continue to be eligible for support before being reassessed by a further clinical panel next week:

  • Piran Vent, made by Swagelok
  • Veloci-Vent, made by Cambridge Consultants Ltd and MetLase
  • Sagentia Ventilator, made by Sagentia
  • CoVent, made by TTP and Dyson
  • AirCare, made by BAE Systems

From the start of the challenge the government have been clear that not all designs would necessarily be taken forward and so today the Cabinet Office is ceasing support for four ventilator designs. These are:

  • EVA, made by TEAM and Cogent Technology
  • Helix, made by Diamedica and Plexus
  • OxVent, made by KCL, Oxford University and Smith+Nephew
  • InVicto, made by JFD’

For more on this see here

27 April GMB Union partners with PPE Exchange to get protection to frontline workers

GMB Union has partnered up with PPE Exchange to help British companies provide protective equipment for frontline workers.

The initiative – supported by the CBI – allows companies with capacity to make PPE to get it to health and social care workers and other sectors where there is a critical shortage.

PPE Exchange’s website also includes a map, showing in real time parts of the country where PPE shortages are particularly acute.

23 April JLR to resume production at some of its factories in May

JLR has announced that it is to resume production at its Solihull plant in addition to its operations in Austria and Slovakia.

Jaguar Land Rover said: “The health and wellbeing of our employees is our first priority. We are developing robust protocol and guidelines to support a safe return to work.

“We will adopt strict social distancing measures across our business and are currently evaluating a number of different measures to ensure we protect and reassure our workforce when they begin to return to work.”

17 April Government furlough scheme extended till June

The Chancellor had confirmed that the government’s furloug scheme, introduced to mitigate redundancies resulting from Covid-19, has been extended until June and may be extended further if necessary.

The Chancellor said, ‘”With the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures yesterday, it is the right decision to extend the furlough scheme for a month to the end of June to provide clarity,”

16 April Chancellor announces expansion of loan scheme to all viable businesses

A government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms.

Outlining further details of the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CLBILS) ahead of its launch on Monday, Rishi Sunak said all firms with a turnover of more than £45 million will now be able to apply for up to £25 million of finance, and up to £50 million for firms with a turnover of more than £250 million.

Business with turnovers of more than £500 million were originally not eligible for the scheme, which is being set up to help firms who do not qualify for the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – for small and medium sized businesses – and the Bank of England Covid Corporate Financing Facility – for investment grade companies. The move, which comes after extensive consultation with businesses, will ensure even more firms are able to benefit from government support.

Further information can be found here

15 April Penlon ventilator wins regulatory approval – ramp up expected soon

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has given the green light to Oxford based medical equipment manufacturer Penlon’s ESO2 device. It is expected that the Ventilator Challenge consortium will ramp up production within days.

For more on this story see here 

15 April Pharmaceutical companies join forces to create vaccine for Covid-19

GSK and Sanofi join forces to create a vaccine for Covid-19 but it could take 18-months. In normal circumstances vaccines can take up to 10 years to develop but the two pharmaceutical giants will work to speed that process up. They also promise that any profits made from the vaccine will be channeled into research against future viruses. More on this story here

14 April Government publishes guidance to assist manufacturers on making PPE

The government has published guidelines to assist manufacturing firms who want to convert their manufacturing operations to production of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – see here

In an effort to provide much-needed clarity, the government’s Office for Product Safety & Standards has published new guidance for businesses wanting to convert their manufacturing operations to produce Covid-19 PPE in high-volume.

If you believe your business can meet the government’s technical specifications for PPE, you can register your offer of support directly here.

9 April BAE Systems donating more than 120,000 face shields to help protect NHS staff on the frontline

As well as supporting the national ventilator effort, employees across BAE Systems have rallied to donate vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the NHS to help protect medical staff around the UK in the fight against Coronavirus.

Employees in their Air sector, who normally produce parts for combat aircraft including Eurofighter Typhoon, and their Submarines business are 3D printing parts for newly designed face shields. Meanwhile, they are sourcing tens of thousands of additional face shields through their supply chain to distribute to the NHS on their behalf, which means they will deliver more than 120,000 face shields to the NHS this month.

Dave Short, Technology Director, explains:

We’ve all been moved by the personal bravery of those working in the NHS who face the virus close up every day, so we wanted to help in any way we could. Our employees heard about the need for face shields, so we looked for the quickest way to get effective products to users.

At the same time as talking to suppliers, colleagues from our Technology team and our Air sector joined forces to design and manufacture our first 3D printed face shield in less than 24 hours. We kept in constant dialogue with our NHS contacts to ensure this met their requirements and had the first shields with them in less than two days.

We’ve already delivered the first batch of 3D printed face shields, but to really make a difference, our supply chain is manufacturing a further 120,000 face shields to their own designs.

More than 20,000 face shields are already on their way to locations around the country, with the remaining face shields set to be delivered to the NHS this month.”

Subject to Government approval, in line with industry regulations issued on 4 April, they plan to scale up production of their 3D printed face shield to deliver around 10,000 single-use visors with a smaller number of re-usable head straps over the coming weeks. They are also continuing to work with their supply chain to source further face shields, which they’ll donate to the NHS.

A number of other projects are underway as employees across the business continue to look at ways to help the country at this difficult time.

Additionally, BAE Systems are supporting VentilatorChallengeUK, a consortium of companies rapidly producing ventilators in the fight against Covid-19. Helping to develop training materials for people building the newly MHRA-approved Penlon ventilator.

8 April Engineering and manufacturing campus supports fight against coronavirus

A state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing campus close to the new Nightingale Hospital in Stratford says it has the perfect facilities for organisations looking to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

The Centre for Engineering and Mechanical Excellence (CEME) in Rainham has a 12,500 sq ft business continuity hub available, along with 15 engineering workshops, laboratories and offices ranging from 200 sq ft- 2,000 sq ft. It also has the only fully equipped shared engineering space in London.

The centre’s CEO Bill Williams said: “We have been extremely impressed by the way in which organisations have mobilised to fight Covid-19, from academics searching for a vaccine to car makers and engineers assembling ventilators. Gin distilleries have been making hand sanitiser while fashion and beauty brands have switched production to make masks and hospital gowns. We want people to be aware that we have the facilities and the desire to support them and the nation at this critical time. We also have a 600-space car park which could be utilised as a Covid-19 test centre, for example.There are very few people currently on site and those that are still working are providing critical support for the coronavirus outbreak and are following all the government guidelines.”

The campus is the base for the NHS North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), one of the key organisations involved in managing the outbreak locally.

CEME, an industrial charity, opened its doors in 2003 to manufacturing, engineering and technology companies. It has 200,000 sq ft of space in three large, modern buildings on a 19-acre secure site and also has a conference centre, event space and technical classrooms.

It is on the main A13 trunk road into London, 10 minutes from Canary Wharf and 10 minutes to the Dartford crossing, with a public bus terminus that links directly with the London Underground and Overground train services.

For further information, visit

8 April Letter from Secretary of State Alok Sharma MP to the Manufacturing Sector

To those working in manufacturing and industry in the UK

At this unprecedented time for the UK I want to pay tribute to you for the work you
are doing to keep the UK economy going.

As you know, the Government’s priority is saving lives and we have advised that
where possible, people should stay at home and work from home. However, our
country needs your support to keep supply chains moving and key workers mobile,
as well as to protect the economy as much as possible. Every business has a role to
play in helping the country defeat coronavirus.

Manufacturing is a critical part of our economy and I would like to be clear that there
is no restriction on manufacturing continuing under the current rules.
Guidelines from Public Health England provide best practice advice on how this can
be done safely. Many across aerospace, chemical, automotive, steel, aluminium,
pharmaceutical, packaging and other sectors, including those providing essential
services and materials, have answered the call to action and are playing a direct role
in combatting COVID-19 by producing the material we need to fight the spread of the
virus. It is vital that we ensure that servicing, parts and raw materials are available to
keep vehicles and services on the road and operating. I would like to give you all my
personal thanks for everything you are doing.

Those who cannot work from home and have to travel to work can continue to do so,
consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice. I would remind both you and your
employers that good practice on hand-washing and social distancing where possible
remains an important part of efforts to keep COVID-19 from spreading, as explained
in the latest guidance on operating safely in the workplace. Further Government
guidance is available on GOV.UK.

As you know, the Chancellor has announced a far-reaching package to support
businesses including government-backed and guaranteed loans, making available
an initial £330bn of guarantees during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the
Coronavirus Job Retention and VAT deferral schemes. I have also recently
announced changes to insolvency rules, to help UK businesses which need financial
rescue or restructuring to keep trading, and want to reassure you that we are working
round the clock to protect our people and businesses. Please visit our business
support webpage for further information:

I, my fellow Ministers in BEIS and the department’s officials, are in regular contact
with industry leaders and the Trade Associations representing businesses operating
across the economy to monitor the effect of COVID-19 on industry and its workforce,
and this close working will continue. I am fully committed to continuing to engage
through the coming days, weeks and beyond to ensure that we can support our
manufacturing sectors.

I realise this will be challenging for you personally, but you are contributing to the
resilience of our nation and I am grateful for the enormous efforts you are making in
order to support the UK at this testing time.

Yours sincerely,

Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

8 April Temporary Licences required to export PPE

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, anyone wishing to export personal protective equipment (PPE) to areas outside the EU, European Free Trade Association member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) and certain other territories will temporarily need a PPE export licence.

This guidance sets out the exporting restrictions on PPE products and the export control process now in place, including how economic operators can apply for a licence.

8 April Numatic Internatioal working towards producing 10,000 face shields per day

Numatic, known for their Henry vacuum cleaners produced in their factory in Somerset, have have urgently re-tasked their Research & Development Teams, Production Specialists and Manufacturing Teams to work across projects where they can help in the COVID-19 crisis.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Numatic’s Design & Manufacturing teams have worked hard to quickly develop a Face Shield that is effective, comfortable, reusable and can be manufactured in high volumes immediately. These face shields have been developed with and are currently in use with *Worcestershire NHS Trust, West Midlands Ambulance Service, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and The Gibraltar Health Authority.

The face shields are open source. For more information see Numatic’s special webpage here

8 April Cranfield University helps create new low-cost, simple ventilators for COVID-19 patients

A simple, low-cost Bag Valve Mask (BVM) ventilator to help critically-ill COVID-19 patients has been rapidly designed by experts at Cranfield University (UK) and built in Georgia Tech (USA) in a matter of days.

The makeshift ventilator can serve two patients simultaneously and due to its flat-pack design can be quickly manufactured at scale, costing less than £75 ($100) per unit. The ventilator can be adjusted easily and updated as needed, and can be linked to an oxygen generator, positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) valves and filters. Power comes from standard wall adapters or 12-volt vehicle batteries. The research team intends to make plans for the device to be available to manufacturers as quickly as possible.

Design serves two patients at once
The BVMs are designed to be used by people with training to use these devices such as medical staff, first aiders, nurses, doctors and carers, as a temporary or emergency breathing aid for those suffering with COVID-19.

The ventilator device works with ‘positive displacement’, forcing air into the patient’s lungs. This process must be controlled to ensure the right amount of air goes in, at the right rhythmic pace – something called the ‘tidal volume’. Though each emergency ventilator can serve two patients simultaneously, their air flow is separate to avoid cross-contamination and flow volumes can be controlled independently.

Easy to manufacture and assemble flat-pack design
Professor Leon Williams is head of the Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield University and joined forces with Associate Professor Shannon Yee from Georgia Tech to rapidly design and build the low-cost and robust makeshift ventilator.

Professor Williams says: “We focused on creating something that can be mass-produced using water-jet or laser cutting, and modular in design to make it easy to assemble and switch out parts. Within five days of getting the brief, an initial design from the Cranfield team was sent to Georgia Tech to test.”

Shannon Yee said: “Our goal was to provide the bare essentials for a ventilator to help with patients who have COVID-19 or acute respiratory distress syndrome. What’s unique about our design is that we have two BVMs per ventilator, which allows two people to breathe with each device that is built. We designed the ventilator to be simple to make, cut from sheets of steel. Kits can be assembled and packaged flat for shipping, then reassembled where needed. The manufacturing requires skills that are readily available, and hand tools could even be used.”

Professor Williams continues: “We have paid special attention to the requirements of medical specialists to ensure the system is fit for purpose. For example, ensuring that the operator can manually adjust the tidal volume to safeguard the patient, maintaining the lowest pressure possible in the airway to avoid trauma.”

A small batch of the devices has already been assembled for testing.


8 April Renishaw ramps up production of ventilator components

Global engineering company, Renishaw, has started mass-producing critical components for medical ventilators, as part of a nationwide effort to support the NHS in the fight against Covid-19.  The company has dedicated a significant part of its manufacturing sites in Gloucestershire and South Wales to produce precision-machined components for two different ventilators manufactured by the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, with production at the sites now running seven days a week. This follows a huge effort from the project, manufacturing engineering and production teams over the last two weeks.

Like many companies across the UK, Renishaw reacted to the UK government’s call to radically increase ventilator production to treat coronavirus patients suffering with respiratory complications.  Tens of thousands of these complex machines are needed in just a few weeks.

Marc Saunders, Director of Group Strategic Development, who is leading Renishaw’s response, explains, “When the government called, we scrambled to respond, and immediately realised the daunting scale of the challenge.  Ventilators are sophisticated medical devices and we felt that our capabilities would be best applied to helping scale up the production of designs with existing technologies. We soon realised that many other industrial companies were thinking the same way and that we would need our combined capacity and capabilities to achieve this enormous endeavour.”

Within a few days, Renishaw joined with leading companies in the aerospace, automotive, medical devices and motorsport sectors to form the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, under the leadership of Dick Elsy, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.  This diverse team is working non-stop to boost production of two proven ventilators, selected by the NHS and manufactured in the UK by Penlon and Smiths Medical.

Dick Elsy explains, “Penlon and Smiths ordinarily have combined capacity of between 50 and 60 ventilators per week. However, thanks to the scale and resources of the wider consortium, we are targeting production of at least 1,500 units a week of the Penlon and Smiths models combined within a matter of weeks. Ventilators are intricate and highly complex pieces of medical equipment and it is vital that we balance the twin imperatives of speed of delivery with the absolute adherence to regulatory standards that is needed to ensure patient safety.”

Within this context, Renishaw’s manufacturing activities form part of a complex network of suppliers that the consortium is coordinating, many of whom, like Renishaw, are making ventilator components for the first time.  Mass-production of ventilators, each of which comprises hundreds of diverse components, requires millions of parts to come together for assembly, a huge logistical operation.

To prepare for the important work that we are undertaking, both for the ventilator project and our global customers in critical supply chains, we temporarily closed our UK manufacturing facilities last week to introduce additional measures to protect the welfare of our employees”, explains Gareth Hankins, Director of Group Manufacturing Services at Renishaw.

He continues, “We have reorganised our factories to increase spacing, as well as zoning areas to restrict movement around the sites.  Hygiene regimes have also been enhanced to minimise the potential risk of the spread of infection.  Our staff have responded magnificently to this challenging situation and it is wonderful to see the factories back up and running and for us to be playing our part in the national Ventilator Challenge.”

Marc Saunders reflects, “It has been an extraordinary few weeks, with so many companies from different fields aligning on a single goal and pulling together so effectively and so quickly.  The VentilatorChallengeUK consortium is working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators and combat a virus that is affecting people around the world.”

He concludes, “The consortium’s key message is that ‘Every ventilator produced is a life saved’ and Renishaw is proud to be playing its part in this vital endeavour.”


7 April Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains and UCL Open Source Ventura Breathing Aid

Manufacturers can now licence Mercedes and University College London’s Ventura breathing aid (CPAP).

See here for more information

UCL will only authorise requests from people representing the following organisations:

  1. Manufacturers
  2. Research Institutions
  3. Healthcare providers
  4. Non-profit sector

Requests from people applying in a personal capacity will be rejected due to licensing restrictions.

Please submit eligible requests using your organisational email address to avoid delays.

The UCL-Ventura breathing aid is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device (“the CPAP”). The CPAP supports patients with breathing difficulties. It works by pushing an air-oxygen mix into the mouth and nose at a continuous pressure, keeping airways open and increasing the amount of oxygen entering the blood stream. This breathing aid can be used to help Covid-19 patients with serious respiratory problems to breathe more easily and has been shown to help prevent the need for invasive ventilation.

This CPAP has been developed as a collaboration between UCL, University College London Hospital and Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains. The design is based on an existing off-patent CPAP system that has been further modified to optimise oxygen consumption. It is hoped that, by making this information widely available, this may help the global response to the crisis by enabling healthcare systems around the world to provide respiratory support for patients with Covid-19. More information can be found on the UCL-Ventura website.

6 April Babcock to make 10,000 ventilators

From UK engineering company Babock’s news release today: “We responded quickly to the UK Prime Minister’s UK Ventilator Challenge and we are proud to have been awarded a contract by the Cabinet Office to manufacture 10,000 Zephyr Plus ventilators, subject to regulatory approvals; a product being developed in collaboration with an established major international supplier of critical care ventilators.”

3 April Funding Competition – Business-led innovation in response to global disruption

Businesses could help boost the UK’s resilience to the long-term impact of the coronavirus outbreak and similar situations in the future, as a result of £20 million government funding announced today.

Grants of up to £50,000 will be available to technology and research-focussed businesses to develop new ways of working and help build resilience in industries such as delivery services, food manufacturing, retail and transport, as well as support people at home in circumstances like those during the coronavirus outbreak.

New innovations could include:

  • New technology allowing retailers to respond better to sudden spikes of consumer demand and improve deliveries across the UK;
  • New services for families to connect with and remotely monitor their elderly or vulnerable relatives, giving people peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving the services they require such as food deliveries, doctor’s appointments and paying bills;
  • Creating education tools which seamlessly integrate the classroom with the kitchen table, allowing teachers to remotely set dynamic tasks, support vulnerable children and make certain no child is left behind.

Competition closes on 15 April at 12pm.

For more information and eligibility see here

3 April A new rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19 developed

A new rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19, developed by a University of Cambridge spinout company and capable of diagnosing the infection in under 90 minutes, is being deployed at Cambridge hospitals, ahead of being launched in hospitals nationwide.

The SAMBA II machines, developed by Diagnostics for the Real World, provide a simple and accurate system for the diagnosis of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19. They will be used by healthcare workers at point-of-care in order to rapidly diagnose patients, directing those who test positive for the infection to dedicated wards. They can also help identify which healthcare workers are infected, enabling those who test negative to return to the front line.

For more on this story see here

3 April Nightingale Hospital opens at London’s Excel centre

3 April Chancellor strengthens support on offer for businesses

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today that he is taking further action to support firms affected by the coronavirus crisis by bolstering business interruption loans for small businesses and announcing a new scheme for larger companies.

More than £90 million of loans to nearly 1,000 small and medium sized firms have been approved under the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) since its launch last week. And a government-backed scheme to provide financing to larger companies, being operated by the Bank of England, has also provided almost £1.9 billion of support to firms and a further £1.6 billion has been committed.

To maximise the support available, the Chancellor is extending the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.

The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.

For more information see here

3 April Jaguar Land Rover starts production of visors for NHS

Jaguar Land Rover has started production of approved, 3D-printed protective visors to answer the call for more vital equipment for the NHS. Initially they will print 1,300 visors each week for keyworkers, with the aspiration to develop the operation for mass production.

2 April Rototherm Group team work around the clock to produce face shields for the front lines

In the last 5 days Rototherm Group, a world-leader in the supply of industrial instrumentation and services, have designed, developed and brought into production a new face shield to help protect front line workers in the fight against Covid19. They have certified the face shield to European standards for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and it is CE marked.

The team are ramping up production in the next few days to reach over 10,000 units per day.

2 April Professor calls for engineers to help solve NHS and healthcare issues amid pandemic 

A new project has been launched to unite engineers from across the world to help solve challenges deriving from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Peter Ogrodnik, a biomedical engineer from Keele University, is leading the project in collaboration with the Institution of Engineering Designers, who are calling for engineers and designers to join them and help tackle some of the biggest issues affecting the NHS and care providers, which could include creating a device to enable a frail person to accept a food parcel, the mass production of ventilators and testing surgical masks after they’ve been sterilised.

The NHS and other care providers across the world are suffering under the pressure of the Covid-19 outbreak. The project called Engineers for the NHS will enable engineers, designers and institutions to collaborate on challenges sent directly from the NHS or from other care providers across the world.

Professor Ogrodnik, an expert in healthcare technologies from Keele University’s School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering, said: “As institutions we have access to some of the best engineering design minds in the world, some of whom are at home with time on their hands. We are suggesting that they could supply some of their spare time to a coordinated provision of engineers and designers focussed on solving the problems deriving from the Covid-19 outbreak. Clearly the ventilator shortage is foremost in everyone’s minds but there are other issues too, many of which can be solved by the collective thoughts of engineers across the world.

Libby Meyrick, Chief Executive Officer for the Institution of Engineering Designers, said: “Unless our engineers and designers know of the issue no solution can be forthcoming. We therefore intend to lead a project that enables all of our members to collaborate on problems sent directly from the NHS or from other care providers across the globe. We would like institutions to enable their engineers to volunteer in this international effort.

The project has launched a new webpage for engineers to sign up to volunteer and will be available for the NHS and care providers to submit their issues they need support with. The problems the initiatives receive will then be filtered through to different groups of engineers across the UK.

2 April National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to support industry in production and supply of ventilators

The UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), is offering its scientific expertise to industry for free, to meet the UK’s ventilator demand in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has ordered thousands of ventilators from Dyson, which are expected to be ready for distribution in a couple of weeks. It is estimated that 30,000 ventilators will be required in the UK to handle coronavirus patients, and keep those with breathing difficulties alive.

NPL support will be provided at no cost to companies seeking help, with a broad team of scientists and engineers on hand to work with industry. NPL’s scientists and engineers will offer guidance and consultancy in the testing, design, and prototyping of parts, bringing safe, effective ventilators into hospitals quicker.

NPL are supporting the national and global effort to rapidly manufacture ventilators in the following ways:

  • Test and validation services (for example, testing of materials, components and sensors)
  • Online training courses in measurement skills
  • Guidance on compliance to quality standards
  • Parts inspection (first and last article inspection reports)
  • Access to world leading measurement experts

All clocks in the UK are traceable back to NPL’s time standards, and in the past it has been the scene of breakthroughs like packet switching, and the redefinition of the kilogram. Now, it is offering expert guidance, testing, and measurement for free, to meet the challenge of providing sufficient ventilators for Covid-19 patients.

Dr JT Janssen, Chief Scientist at NPL said, “With over 1000 great minds and a wealth of expert skills and knowledge we, at NPL, stand ready to fight this pandemic and support not only industry but the government and public too. We are a national laboratory and our mission, since 1900 has been to use our expertise to improve the UK’s prosperity and quality of life. Now, more than ever, we must deliver on this and I welcome anyone, who thinks we might be able to help to get in touch.

Organisations working on the fight against COVID-19 that can use this expertise are encouraged to visit to get in touch.

2 April Cambridge University uses spin-out company’s innovation in fight against COVID-19

A logistics centre has been set up by Cambridge University to process donations of personal protective equipment – including face masks, gloves and visors from Cambridge labs – and make it readily available to NHS medics battling the COVID-19 outbreak.

When the seriousness of the situation became clear, staff in labs across the University began collecting up all available protective equipment so it could be used by NHS clinicians treating COVID-19 patients.

Professor Andy Neely OBE

“Alongside equipment collected at the University itself, extra supplies are being sourced from around the globe by University departments, and donated by Cambridge alumni and a network of University partners, to make them accessible to local GP surgeries, clinics and hospitals.”

The processing centre was created to receive, store and send on the equipment. Cambridge spin-out RedBite is providing ‘itemit’ object-tracking technology to log vital information about the donated equipment, ensure only NHS-approved items are forwarded on, and allow a wide range of local services to see what is available in real-time and order what they need.

Supplies at the University’s processing centre are limited and only available to local services. Organisations or individuals able to donate any of the following items can make contact through the University’s dedicated webpage: Face masks (FFP2 and FFP3), disposable surgical masks (type IIR and splash resistant) face visors, hand sanitiser (60% alcohol minimum), water-resistant gowns, hazmat suits, antibacterial wipes, reusable googles and protective glasses.

The operation to co-ordinate PPE donations, which was set up in less than five days, is part of the University’s response to the coronavirus emergency, alongside the work of its researchers to help understand and control the new infection, and its engineers offering expert advice to firms manufacturing ventilators.

So far, equipment has been donated by, among others, the University’s School of the Biological Sciences, the departments of Zoology, Pharmacology and Chemistry, the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, and the city’s science parks. University alumni and partners have already supplied equipment and have promised to send more.

For more on this story see here

1 April Airbus to deliver 400,000 masks to NHS

More than 400,000 surgical masks destined for the NHS have been loaded on to trucks at Airbus’ HQ in Toulouse, France, and are en route to the UK.

The cargo is part of a total of 6 million surgical masks that have already been brought to Europe from China using several Airbus test aircraft.

Airbus has established an air bridge to China to bring large quantities of surgical masks to Europe to support governments in the fight against COVID-19.

The first UK consignment of face masks – 406,000 surgical FFP3 masks and about 1,000 FFP2 masks – is due to arrive at Airbus’ Broughton site in North Wales on Friday.


31 March First 1000 ventilators to be delivered to NHS by next week

MP Michael Gove, Chancellor of of the Duchy of Lancaster, announced at the UK Government’s Coronavirus update today that the first 1000 ventilators being made by various manufacturers will be delivered to the NHS by week beginning 6 April 2020.

30 March F1 races to build breathing apparatus for NHS

As part of Project Pitlane engineers at Mercedes High Performance Powertrains have successfully developed with engineers at University College London (UCL) and clinicians at UCL Hospital, a ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ (CPAP) respiratory device which helps Coronavirus patients with serious lung infections to breath and avoid more ‘invasive mechanical ventilation’.

The new device has been approved for use by the NHS and roll-out is expected soon.

Working since 18 March at UCL’s engineering hub the team reversed engineered an existing CPAP device used in Chinese and Italian hospitals.

Andy Cowell, Mercedes HPP’s Managing Director, said: “The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the ‘Project Pitlane’ collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects.

“We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe.”

For more on this story see here

30 March Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium 

Just two weeks ago the Prime Minister appealed to British manufacturers to rise to the challenge of helping to make an estimated 30,000 ventilators needed in the fight against Covid19 – the pandemic sweeping across the world.

Led by Dick Elsy, CEO of High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium is now ready to bring into production this week an agreed new design from existing technologies which ‘can be assembled from materials and parts in current production’.

Having spent the last week in planning, the consortium, made up of technology and engineering businesses including from aerospace, automotive and medical sectors, examined the various ventilator designs ‘to meet a high-level specification for a Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS) developed by clinicians and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).’

Working closely with the regulator the new design is expected to be signed off after final audit as the new design ‘combines existing proven clinical equipment and is the clinician’s first choice for the RMVS’.

Additional manufacturing support and assembly facilities is also being provided to a member of the consortium who is a producer of medical ventilators in order to scale up ‘a second existing ventilator design which has full regulatory approval.’

Dick Elsy commented: “This consortium brings together some of the most innovative companies in the world. Every day, their highly-skilled staff collaborate to create solutions that help millions of people, and 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. I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives.”

30 March JCB digs deep to support the nation

Staffordshire manufacturer JCB is to restart production at its factory near Uttoxeter  in order to manufacturer special steel housings for a brand new design of ventilator from Dyson.

The factory had been temporarily closed because of the Coronavirus, but two weeks ago the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, asked JCB to offer assistance in the emergency production of much needed ventilators for the NHS.

Speaking about the current crisis Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, commented, “When we were approached by the Prime Minister we were determined, as a British company, to help in any way we could.

“This project has gone from design to production in just a matter of days and I am delighted that we have been able to deploy the skills of our talented engineering, design and fabrication teams so quickly at a time of national crisis. This is also a global crisis, of course, and we will naturally help with the production of more housings if these ventilators are eventually required by other countries.”

28 March Red tape removed to protect NHS staff

New measures announced will give vital support to frontline NHS staff battling COVID-19 and support businesses under pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

To help get personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser to NHS staff as quickly as possible, Business Secretary Alok Sharma is easing administrative requirements and barriers to imports of these essential tools, without compromising on their safety.

By reducing the amount of red tape, new suppliers and businesses that produce ingredients for safe hand sanitiser and PPE will be able to bring their products to market in a matter of days.

Efforts to boost availability of essential supplies involve temporary measures including:

  • Asking the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities to fast-track PPE through the product safety assessment process and prioritise this activity over other market surveillance activity
  • Allowing PPE equipment providing protection against COVID-19 which lack the CE mark onto the market provided products meet essential safety requirements
  • Providing new guidance for local authorities and ports and borders enforcement officers on the import and safety testing of hand sanitiser

The Business Secretary has also announced he will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency.

This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

“Applying a common-sense approach to regulation will ensure products are safe and reach the market without any unnecessary delay, getting vital protective equipment such as face masks to frontline staff as quickly as possible.

“Today’s measures will also reduce the burden on business, giving bosses much-needed breathing space to keep their workers employed and their companies going.”

24 March A factory in 10 days!

INEOS, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies, has announced plans to produce 1 million hand sanitisers a month to help with the European shortage.

The company is reportedly the leading European producer of the two key raw materials needed for hospital-grade sanitisers – isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and ethanol – from its two sites Grangemouth, Scotland and in northern Germany.

The company has stated that it is “already running these plants flat out” and that it has been diverting more of this product to essential medical use. It now plans to build two new factories to make hand sanitiser from them – the first in the UK (near Middlesbrough) and subsequently replicated in Germany.

The company expects to concentrate on meeting the needs of front line medical and care services as well as making ‘pocket bottle’ hand sanitisers for personal use for people across the UK and Europe.

24 March Dyson preparing to make c 5000 ventilators

From ITV News

“Dyson, the vacuum cleaner and hand drier manufacturer, have confirmed to ITV News their plan to help with the coronavirus outbreak by developing a ventilator for the NHS.

The plan which is already “scaling up” will follow regulated medical device development which it’s understood is likely to include testing prototypes on pigs lungs and using components from their vacuums.

The company, owned by billionaire Sir James Dyson, say they have “responded to the Government’s request for support with its Covid-19 response, by focusing resources into the design and manufacture of a ventilator for the NHS”.
A senior source within the company told us that they are hoping to make circa 5,000 ventilators at their Hullavington plant in Wiltshire. The source says they hope to set up a production line and use parts shipped from overseas.

The company say the project is being “undertaken in an extremely challenging time frame. We have deployed expertise in air movement, motors, power systems, manufacturing and supply chain and are working with medical technology and development company, TTP – The Technology Partnership, based in Cambridge.

“Together we have been working around the clock and through the past two weekends to develop a meaningful and timely response. We are conducting a full regulated medical device development, including testing in the laboratory and in humans, and we are scaling up for volume.”

23 March Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Suspend Production & Group PSA Closes Plants in Europe

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars announced today that production at the company’s Goodwood-based manufacturing plant will be suspended from Monday 23 March for two weeks.

Group PSA also announced that it is to close its plants in Europe in response to Covid19

22 March Government Specification for ventilators to be used in UK hospitals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

For more on this see the official government website here

The guidance sets out the clinical requirements based on the consensus of what is ‘minimally acceptable’ performance in the opinion of the anaesthesia and intensive care medicine professionals and medical device regulators.

21 March Smiths Group allows others manufacturers to use ventilator model

From Smiths Group Website

  • Smiths Group (“Smiths”) significantly ramping up production of its PARAPAC Plus ventilators, manufactured in its Smiths Medical facility in Luton, UK
  • Smiths is at the centre of a UK Consortium working to deliver the UK Government target of 30,000 ventilators by making available the Smiths PARAPAC Plus device
  • Smiths in dialogue with contract manufacturers to further add production capacity in the US and other countries to meet global demand

Smiths, the global technology company, (LSE: SMIN.L) announces that its Smiths Medical division is ramping up production of its PARAPAC Plus ventilator at its Luton site to meet increased demand from the UK and across Europe. Smiths Medical is working with its supply chain to increase weekly production over the next 2 weeks. Smiths is in dialogue with contract manufacturers in the US to increase its production levels of ventilators, to support the fight against the global shortage.

The impact of Covid-19 has created a worldwide shortage for ventilators, and Smiths is helping the UK Government deliver its ambitious plan of 5,000 additional ventilators within two weeks, with the intention to scale availability to 30,000 over the coming months. In addition to increasing its own production, Smiths will play a central role in the Industrial Consortium being formed by the UK Government. Smiths will provide IP and technical advice, and make available its PARAPAC Plus ventilator to the Consortium, in order to create additional UK sites and supply chains to deliver the objective.

In addition to providing ventilator units, Smiths is also increasing the production of specialist ventilator hoses through its Flex-Tek division in South Carolina, US for a number of ventilator manufacturers across the world.

Andrew Reynolds Smith, CEO of Smiths, said:

“During this time of national and global crisis it is our duty to assist in the efforts being made to tackle this devastating pandemic and I have been inspired by the hard work undertaken by our employees to achieve this aim. We are doing everything possible to substantially increase production of our ventilators at our Luton site and worldwide. Alongside this we are at the centre of the UK consortium working to set up further sites to materially increase the numbers available to the NHS and to other countries impacted by this crisis.”

About PARAPAC Plus

Designed and manufactured in the UK, the Smiths Medical PARAPAC Plus provides the versatility to deliver mechanical ventilation, demand and free flow oxygen therapy all from one compact, lightweight unit. It’s been designed to be rugged, simple to use and doesn’t rely on an external electric supply – and so well suited to the needs of healthcare systems around the world.

20 March Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme launched by government

From the BBC Website:

The government is to pay 80% of wages for employees not working, up to £2,500 a month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak says.

The “unprecedented” measures are part of government plans to protect people’s jobs, he says.

Many firms have been warning of collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs, as life in the UK is largely put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that the closure of pubs and restaurants would have a “significant impact” on businesses.

The Chancellor made an appeal to employers to stand by their workers during the coronavirus crisis.

“Let me speak directly to businesses: I know it’s incredibly difficult out there – we in government are doing everything we can to support you,” he said.

“The government is doing its best to stand behind you and I’m asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers.”


20 March UK pallet networks join forces to offer government a unique supply chain service for critical supplies

The UK’s eight pallet networks have joined together, says the Association of Pallet Networks (APN), to offer their services for the movement of emergency supplies for critical services.

The UK’s pallet networks are uniquely placed to ensure timely and reliable supply of emergency goods to anywhere in the UK. Between them they have 30,000 employees, 750 depots, a fleet of 23,500 vehicles and offer 100% coverage by postcode.

For more on this story and to connect with other manufacturers in these unprecedented times please join The Manufacturer Community here

20 March MP advises businesses to wait for Chancellor’s announcement before making staffing decisions

20 March Government publishes list of key workers

The government have published a list of key workers. You can find more on this link here

19 March Bank of England cuts interest rates to historic low of 0.1%

At its special meeting on 19 March, the MPC judged that a further package of measures was warranted to meet its statutory objectives.  It therefore voted unanimously to increase the Bank of England’s holdings of UK government bonds and sterling non-financial investment-grade corporate bonds by £200 billion to a total of £645 billion, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves, and to reduce Bank Rate by 15 basis points to 0.1%.  The Committee also voted unanimously that the Bank of England should enlarge the TFSME scheme, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves.

18 March Manufacturers working around the clock to provide essential medical equipment to UK’s healthcare system

A consortium of leading manufacturing firms are moving at exceptional pace to build a ventilator prototype. Tens of thousands of ventilators are needed by the UK’s healthcare system to help combat the rise of vulnerable people contracting Covid-19 / Coronavirus within the coming weeks.

Aerospace, automotive and other specialist manufacturers, including; Meggitt, Airbus, GKN, Thales, Renishaw, McLaren and Nissan are working around the clock to produce a ventilator prototype within the next week.

Under the leadership of Dick Elsy, Chief Executive of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the consortia are bringing different skill sets in producing a prototype that can be scaled up to the thousands within the next few weeks.

Dick Elsy, who was due to retire in August 2020 (HVMC CEO, Dick Elsy on creating largest manufacturing research body in Europe), has announced that he will defer his retirement to lead the national response to the virus, saying “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.”

Whilst this urgent initiative is underway medical equipment and ventilator manufacturers, including Penlon and Breas Medical Ltd are doing what they can to provide both ventilators and alternative medical devices to the NHS.

Companies with capabilities who think they can re-purpose production are asked to complete the template on line

Get in touch via The Manufacturer Community if you want share useful advice to help other manufacturers through these extraordinary times

17 March UK manufacturers continue to rise to the ventilator challenge posed by government to deal with Covid-19 patients

The MAN group, made up of nine sub-contracting manufacturers and a design agency, all in the Midlands, have pitched in to aid the effort.

From their website:

“We are in a position to immediately offer our range of skills in assembly, casting, forging, CNC machined parts, pressings, electronics, tube manipulation and injection moulding in a coordinated way that could lead towards securing additional capacity or help in creating another supply chain.

There are some practical things that we will need, such as the expertise of the ventilator manufacturers and a bill of materials and then it will be a case of looking at innovative ways where we can support production as quickly as possible.

We spent all yesterday talking to medical device experts and some ventilator manufacturers and believe the best way UK industry can support them is to provide a skilled workforce with expertise to increase manufacturing capacity for electromechanical sub-assemblies and key elements, such as pumps, pneumatics and vacuums.

The MAN Group believe this is the easiest way to scale up and meet demand allowing the OEMs of ventilators to focus on the core task in hand, thus eliminating IP and potential approval processes applicable to medical devices.”

17 March Government seeking assistance with 3D printing parts for ventilators

The place to register your capability is the same one you’d use to register any capability in the manufacture of ventilators.

17 March Chilling news for companies at risk from closure or business interruption

This from The Guardian:

The Association of British Insurers issued a stark warning that “business interruption cover” bought by most firms will not pay out for Coronavirus-caused stoppages.

It said: “Irrespective of whether or not the government orders closure of a business, the vast majority of firms won’t have purchased cover that will enable them to claim on their insurance to compensate for their business being closed by the Coronavirus.

“Standard business interruption cover – the type the majority of businesses purchase – does not include forced closure by authorities as it is intended to respond to physical damage at the property which results in the business being unable to continue to trade.”

It is understood that fewer than 10% of businesses – possibly only about 2% – will have any form of extension to their business cover for closure caused by infectious diseases.

The lack of insurance payouts will leave many businesses in a desperate financial situation.

 Get in touch via The Manufacturer Community if you as a manufacturer have any issues or advice around insurance you want to share. 

17 March Phone line log-jam

The government’s initial effort to recruit manufacturers to the cause of making ventilators led to jammed phonelines at BEIS and delays in responding to emails. Their next step looks really positive:

As this snapshot from the BEIS website demonstrates (and it is only one small snapshot) they are now pre-qualifying offers of help from manufacturers in a way that will certainly streamline the effort.

Ventilator appeal clip from BEIS website
Ventilator appeal clip from BEIS website