UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


UCL-Ventura CPAP project: Q&A with the Royal Academy of Engineering

26 May 2020

Professor Rebecca Shipley (Director, UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering) and Andy Cowell (Managing Director, Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrain) took part in a live Q&A session about the UCL-Ventura project, hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Screenshot of Royal Academy Q&A session

Over an hour, Rebecca and Andy answered questions from fellow engineers and the public about the UCL-Ventura breathing aid which is now being used in UK hospitals. They covered everything from the technical aspects of the device, through to the teamwork involved and the clinical impact. The session was facilitated by UCL colleague, Professor Mark Miodownik.

The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is the result of a collaboration between staff from UCL, University College London Hospital and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrain. The team reverse-engineered an existing design so it could be rapidly manufactured at a large scale. The UCL-Ventura device is also much more efficient in terms of oxygen usage, using up to 70% less than the first model.

Rebecca explained how CPAPs can be used to prevent some patients from needing invasive mechanical ventilation.  

“One of the advantaged to CPAPs [compared to ventilators], is people are on them for less time. So, that optimises bed numbers. They’re less sophisticated devices, so in terms of staff training there’s a significant advantage”.

In April, the designs for the UCL-Ventura CPAP device were made globally available, free of charge so that manufacturers could reproduce the device to support their countries’ COVID-19 response. As of May, more than 1800 design licences had been granted in over 105 countries.

Speaking of the team's round-the-clock efforts, Andy said:

“It was worth it, even if it saves just one person’s life.”

The event was part of the Royal Academy’s ‘Innovation in a Crisis’ Q&A series, which explores the different ways that engineers are contributing to the COVID-19 response.

Speaking at the end, Mark Miodownik remarked that the project represented the epitome of the British engineering spirit: “This is what needs to be done, and we’re going to do it!”.


Listen to the audio recording

More upcoming events

Innovation in a crisis Q&A series – VentilatorChallengeUK

The next session in the series will focus on VentilatorChallengeUK, a cross-sector consortium of UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses which came together to produce medical ventilators for the UK.

Time: 3.15 – 4.15 PM

Date: Friday 29 May

Register online

 ‘UCL Ventura – the Engineering Story’

Professor Tim Baker, the second team lead from UCL, will be speaking with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) about the CPAP project on Tuesday 2 June.

Tim teaches design and practical engineering skills at UCL and is vice-president of the IMechE Design Challenge competition. His career started in Formula 1 as an engine builder.

Time: 5.15 – 6.15 PM

Date: Tuesday 2 June

Register online