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James Pink and the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium

In the wake of alarming ventilator shortage predictions, the UK Government united businesses to find a way to ramp up production of the life-saving devices.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government issued a call to arms to the manufacturing and medical technology community to address the predicted shortage of ventilators desperately needed to save lives.

To acquire an additional 30,000 ventilators in eight weeks for the National Health System (NHS), the government launched the Ventilator Challenge. The VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium assembled teams of experts across the nation, including NSF’s James Pink, to collaborate across industries to ramp up production.

The teams paired together manufacturing giants across the aerospace, automotive and medical industries with specialized medical device firms intimately aware of how to produce the complex and precise instruments, just not to scale. Experts in product safety, regulatory compliance, quality systems and the global medical supply chain answered the call, as well, advising teams to overcome any obstacles they encountered.

The challenge delivered two designs from Penlon and Smiths Medical and an ability to increase production to meet demands, resulting in 14,000 new devices to be produced in approximately three months.

Prepared for the Call

For more than two decades before the pandemic, NSF’s James Pink had been unknowingly preparing for this exact moment. For 10 years, he served as a health care technology expert and lead auditor for a leading European notified body. He began his career as a product designer in the oil tools industry, moving into medical physics and clinical engineering at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, UK.

When the challenge was announced, Mr. Pink immediately began sending advice and guidance that might prove helpful to the consortium. Within days, he was invited to join the team as an industry liaison, supporting nine projects through the challenge.

“I’ve been involved in anesthesia. I’ve been involved in oxygen therapy. I’ve assessed the entire supply chain. I was integral in bio-medical engineering departments,” said Mr. Pink. "It felt like it was my role to do something that was going to be pragmatic and was going to help.”

For weeks, Mr. Pink traveled across the nation to provide real-time guidance to challenge teams and continued to find inspiration in their incredible collaboration and focus.

“There was no hierarchy. It was just people completely sharing their expertise, sharing the moment and working towards something that was bigger than themselves,” Mr. Pink reflected. “It was a pure mission, and to see humanity in that way makes me very privileged.”

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