A group of Canadian medical researchers have issued a global innovation challenge: design a simple, low-cost, easy-to-manufacture and easy-to-maintain medical ventilator which could be deployed anywhere in the world to help fight Covid-19

Ventilators are essential to keep seriously ill coronavirus patients alive if their lungs stop working. This happens to approximately 10-12 percent of people who catch the virus.

The ventilator  – basically a breathing machine – gives these patients’ bodies, and their doctors, extra time to get them well.

But there’s a worldwide shortage of ventilators – including in New Zealand – see Newsroom’s story here about how the Government and business are working together to try to find a solution in this country. 

As we explained in our story, medical ventilators are mostly pretty complex and expensive machines. But they don’t need to be. 

Hence the design-a-ventilator challenge issued by the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and Canada’s McGill University. 

The two organisations have offered a NZ$240,000 prize, calling for teams to come up with a ventilator which could be up and running quickly enough to help stretched medical teams tackling coronavirus around the world.

Under the rules of the competition, the top three designs will be available to download for free.

“Even in developed economies, there may be a shortage of ventilators to treat large numbers of patients during outbreak peaks, as has been seen in Italy,” the briefing notes say. “The case will likely be direr still in countries with more limited resources and less resilient healthcare systems.”

The challenge closes on March 31 and people can enter as many times as they like.

“To motivate participation from local manufacturers, we encourage participants to submit provisional patents prior to the announcement of final designs, while granting license to local builders to manufacture their designs during the Covid crisis.” 

For more information, including the design requirements, visit the Code Life Ventilator Challenge website.

Nikki Mandow was Newsroom's business editor and the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Business Journalist of the Year @NikkiMandow.

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