David Dawkins from Forbes
The race to deliver much-needed ventilators to hospitals fighting coronavirus received welcome news today from British entrepreneur Sir James Dyson. A spokesman for Dyson confirmed to Forbes that an initial order of 10,000 units from the U.K. government has been placed, and work will begin immediately at the historic airforce base RAF Hullavington.
Dyson confirmed in a letter to staff seen by Forbes, “Since I received a call from Boris Johnson ten days ago, we have refocused resources at Dyson, and worked with TTP, The Technology Partnership, to design and build an entirely new ventilator, The CoVent.”
The entrepreneurs’ ten-day turnaround in addressing what was thought to be a complicated task has, however, raised a few eyebrows.
British TV personality Robert Peston queried on Twitter whether “Dyson may have jumped [the] gun,” and that, “Dyson was possibly trying to put pressure on [the] government to give approval by disclosing its ventilator plans.”
However, the spokesman said that “the order has been placed” and they have not been contacted by Peston or any members of his production team.
The spokesperson could not yet commit to a date when the equipment will hit hospital wards, but he confirmed that there would be “a last round of testing” before it goes into production. Dyson stated that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been involved throughout the ten-day journey so far, “hence the order.”
The spokesman added that although it’s too early to cost, “Dyson [is] not doing this for profit.” The CoVent is set to go into production in the coming weeks.
The call for ventilators came after the U.K.’s Department for Health and Social Care warned that the reported 8,175 devices currently available to the 60 million people across Britain and Northern Ireland are not nearly enough.
The initial order of 10,000 units from the U.K. government was on an open-book basis, but Dyson is now looking to make the ventilator available overseas. A further 5,000 will be donated to the international effort.
Dyson’s letter to staff says, “Ten days ago the U.K. government requested a design for a ventilator that was safe, effective, efficient in conserving oxygen, easy to use, bed-mounted, portable and not needing a fixed air supply.” CoVent, he adds, “meets the clinician-led specifications, to address the explicit clinical needs of COVID-19 patients.”
Hullavington Airfield was used for RAF gliding operations until 2016 when it was sold to Dyson. The old World War II base was the initial home for Dyson’s electric car project before its move to and subsequent abandonment in Singapore last year.