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Themes: Culture and Participation

New innovation platform to provide global solutions to global challenges

GDI Hub and UCL launch new innovation platform - – to provide global access to viable medical and protective equipment designs to aid COVID-19 response around the world

A consortium of partners brought together by innovation catalyst Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub and led by UCL Engineering today launched – a central innovation platform that will source global solutions to global challenges. It will support the COVID-19 response by providing access to proven, viable designs for medical devices and personal, protective equipment (PPE) that will aid health and social care professionals and patients around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The platform will also drive the next phase of UKAid’s Frontier Technologies Hub #COVIDaction programme - sourcing ‘indirect response’ technology innovations that will be critical to families and communities battling the pandemic in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

Building on its research-led expertise and UKAid’s Frontier Technologies Hub #COVIDaction response, GDI Hub has joined forces with the UCL Institute of Making, UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering and UKAid’s Frontier Technologies Hub to establish a dynamic, multidisciplinary team to run this project - bringing together unique skills across design, engineering, healthcare, product development, innovation and technology.

Funded by UKAid, the platform will share vetted innovations, enabling innovators and local manufacturers around the world to access designs and development stories. Fully accessible and optimised for mobile, has been designed for use globally, ensuring functionality in areas of low bandwidth, including in LMICs.

Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Dean of UCL Engineering, said: "I'm delighted to see this initiative spearheaded by groups within UCL Engineering. The Innovation Action platform offers an opportunity for the efforts of our research at UCL to support communities across the world in their fight against COVID-19 and allows our impact to be accelerated through the global network bought together by GDI Hub.”

Dr Catherine Holloway, Founder and Academic Director of GDI Hub (UCL Computer Science), said: “At GDI Hub, we specialise in bringing together collaborative networks to solve global challenges and create positive change in societies around the world. We wanted to use the expertise gained through our Assistive Technology programme, AT2030, to help with the unprecedented challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to support Frontier Technologies Hub with their #COVIDaction mission.”

The platform has launched with design specifications for several UCL-approved innovations, chosen with the support of multidisciplinary expertise across the university. They include the UCL-Ventura, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device that supports patients who have breathing difficulties, and a DIY face visor that can be made using resources that might be found in a home or office, for use by those in immediate need who have no approved PPE at their disposal.

As a next priority, the platform will feature #COVIDaction designs for ‘indirect response’ technology innovations that are critical to low and middle income countries (LMICs) battling the pandemic. This will focus on the following thematic areas:

  • Data - data collection, mapping, modelling and reporting to inform response.
  • Local Solutions and Local Production - personal, protective equipment (PPE) and healthcare solutions for both clinical and personal care/prevention.
  • Resilient Health Services - training and care provision through digital channels/platforms.
  • Tech-enabled Distribution - digitising demand and supply e.g. cold chain.
  • Digital Financial Support - digitising financial support to support people/local economies.

The platform forms part of the wider mission-led approach of GDI Hub to work closely with partners across UCL Engineering and beyond, to make the world a fairer place. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform will be an innovation exchange addressing global challenges such as Assistive Technology - using the principles of open-source innovation to positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world who are living with disabilities. The challenges of Assistive Technology provision are similar to those seen with COVID-19: a lack of affordable, quality products, trained personnel, manufacturing, production and global suppliers. By replicating learnings and working across the GDI Hub’s global networks, will bridge sectors, industries and borders, and rapidly catapult innovations to the regions that need them.

Innovators with designs that could be featured on the platform - and manufacturing organisations who have capacity - are invited to join this movement via the website.