UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


UCL IHE Director awarded OBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

11 June 2021

“UCL-Ventura provides a timely reminder that no single nation can succeed alone; ultimately only international effort will prevail.”

Becky S

(Photo credit: Jude Palmer / Royal Academy of Engineering)

UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering’s Director, Professor Rebecca Shipley, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 with an OBE for her services to the Development of the Continuous Positive Airways Pressure Device during the Pandemic, nationally and internationally.

Engineering a COVID-19 response

In 2020 she co-led a team of engineers from UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP and clinicians from UCLH to design and manufacture at scale non-invasive breathing aids for COVID-19 patients. The team reverse-engineered an off-patent Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, optimised its design and secured regulatory approval within just 2 weeks, manufacturing 10,000 devices for the UK. These breathing aids, known as UCL-Ventura, have been deployed to over 130 NHS hospitals.

Recognising that the humanitarian need was global, Professor Shipley’s team enabled the licensed release of the device’s design and manufacturing instructions at no cost. The instructions have since been accessed by over 1900 manufacturers, non-profits and governments in 105 countries. She has since worked tirelessly to provide technical and manufacturing support to in-country teams.

UCL-Ventura devices are now helping patients in hundreds of hospitals in over 15 countries including India, South Africa, Peru and Pakistan. The team have also worked with charities such as IMET2000 to directly supply pre-manufactured devices to countries like Palestine and Uganda that were unable to manufacture them locally. Most recently, she worked with the UK government and UCL-Ventura’s logistics partner G-TEM to send over 1,200 UCL-Venturas to India and Nepal to support the countries’ fight against recent surges. Find out more about UCL-Ventura’s international progress through these country spotlights.

Commenting on her award, Professor Shipley said: “It is a privilege to be part of the UCL-Ventura team contributing to the global Covid-19 pandemic response. We initially focused our efforts on supplying devices to the NHS, with over 130 hospitals supported.

“Within a year, over 15,000 devices are in use in over 15 countries, either locally manufactured or supplied through charities. Covid-19 remains a global challenge and the UCL-Ventura provides a timely reminder that no single nation can succeed alone; ultimately only international effort will prevail.”

Professor Shipley was one of five UCL staff members recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for their services to science, research, higher education, the economy and creative industries. Read more about the other members commended on UCL News here.

More about Professor Shipley

Beyond her work responding to COVID-19, Becky advocates for a new, inclusive approach to engineering and research. Through her roles as Director of the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Vice Dean (Health) for the UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences, she coordinates interdisciplinary research activities within healthcare engineering across Engineering, Medical and Clinical Sciences at UCL and our partner hospitals.

She is also Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Nerve Engineering, the first Centre in the UK to bring together engineering and physical sciences with the life and clinical sciences to tackle translational nerve engineering problems, and Co-Director of an EPSRC Hub for Mathematical Sciences in Healthcare, CHIMERA, bringing together mathematical, statistic, engineering and computational sciences approaches to develop new data-driven models of human physiology, and use them to inform clinical design making in intensive care. 

With the effects of the pandemic hitting older people particularly hard and reinforcing common issues like social isolation and independence in the home, one of her next challenges is how technologies can help us age healthily. The UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering recently launched a national initiative Age Innovation Hub to include public, charities and healthcare workers in this new research – an example of her ethos of ensuring engineers are connected with the world outside academia, and the problems they solve are rooted in the most pressing, real needs.