More than 60 manufacturers have been asked to make up to 20,000 ventilators to treat coronavirus patients. These include Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover.
UK-based F1 teams McLaren, Williams, Red Bull, Renault, Racing Point and Mercedes are currently assessing how feasible it would be to combine their expertise in design, rapid prototyping, and high value manufacturing and production, to produce the medical devices to help in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The Formula One summer factory shutdown may have been brought forward to March and April, but these teams could soon be firing up their factories and mobilising their available workforce to produce much needed, life-saving ventilators required by the NHS to treat those battling the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The F1 teams could be particularly well suited to mass producing the required ventilators because they all have applied-technology divisions that are capable of manufacturing complex products with a very short lead-time.
The teams are working with University College London and their respective hospitals, as well as research funding group Innovate UK and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult team.
The NHS has 5,900 ventilators, according to the Department for Health and Social Care, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that at least another 20,000 are needed. The Department for Health has also called for suppliers to build “as many as they can”.
Ventilators are so crucial in the battle against COVID-19 because the virus can result in severe pneumonia meaning that the lungs are unable to provide sufficient oxygen and remove sufficient carbon dioxide. Those requiring hospital treatment due to the virus are very likely to need a constant ventilated oxygen supply.
The chief technical officer of F1’s motorsport division, and former Williams and Renault chief engineer, Pat Symonds, is heading-up the discussions with teams, medical suppliers, and the government.
It is understood that the teams will reverse engineer the existing ventilators rather than trying to develop a new design due to the urgency of the situation. It is unclear at this stage how the intellectual property rights that might protect the original ventilator designs will be managed. Due to the emergency nature of the situation we assume that some sort of sensible agreement with the rights owners should be possible.
An announcement regarding the feasibility assessment is expected in the coming days.