Festo jointly wins ‘Collaborate to Innovate’ Award from The Engineer

Collaborate to innovate


Festo are honoured to be part of the team to win the COVID-19 Response award from The Engineer magazine. The Emergency Ventilator for Covid-19 project team was made up of Jenton International, B&R Industrial Automation, Dero Fabrication, Shearmans and Festo.

Setting aside commercial rivalries, the five collaborating partners produced a working prototype within three weeks, sourcing components from outside existing ventilator supply chains, as all of the Ventilator Challenge participants were required to do. Lower than predicted demand meant the device never made it into production, but this in itself was a positive outcome, and the collaboration with like-minded engineering companies in the name of a worthy cause was its own reward.


Despite having no previous medical expertise, Jenton felt compelled to answer the government’s call to action, relying on the company’s knowledge in process automation to underpin the creation of an emergency ventilation device. Both industry sectors require machines with complex control algorithms to ensure a high level of repeatability and accuracy under a range of changeable conditions. For the ventilator, this meant being able to supply a required volume and ratio of air or oxygen to a patient in a set time, but with a varying back pressure and limitations on maximum and minimum criteria. In addition, the system had to be fail-safe and to be used by medically trained professionals in a manner that they would expect from standard commercially available systems.


This was one of many Covid-19 ventilator projects that Festo supported. The UK Government launched the Ventilator Challenge on the 16th March, and Festo UK’s phones immediately lit up.  Within the government briefing documents was an academic paper written by a team of doctors, anaesthetists, and engineers at Swansea university describing a low oxygen consumption ventilator for use during a respiratory failure epidemic.  The paper listed an example list of Festo parts that could be used to build a reciprocating mechanism that used the medical gases to power the ventilator and then made efficient use of the, potentially scarce, Oxygen by redirecting it into the patient breathing circuit.  

The response to the challenge was amazing, with companies big and small, engineers, consultants, and innovators registering their willingness to help and downloading the information.  Festo quickly established a workgroup of specialists to handle the questions flooding in.  Everyone wanted assistance in designing their circuits, selecting and configuring the right product for their solution and assessing the ability of the supply chain to meet demand.


Thankfully, in the end, most of these emergency ventilators weren’t required.  The NHS coped with the peak demand, and the massive production ramp-up of existing ventilator designs met immediate requirements.


Click here for more info on the 2020 Collaborate to Innovate Awards