Open Ventilator System Initiative (OVSI)

The Open Ventilator System Initiative (OVSI) was established in March 2020 to develop an open source, low cost, high-quality ventilator system for under-resourced contexts, such as public hospitals in low- and middle-income countries.

CGE is one of the co-founders of OVSI, along with the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, the Department of Physics and the Whittle Laboratory in Engineering at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Aerothermal, Interneuron and Cambridge Global Health Partnerships. Other core OVSI collaborators include Beko, Prodrive and Cambridge Precision in the UK, Defy and Denel in South Africa, the University of Nairobi (Kenya) and Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia).

“Our approach to the design, production and diffusion of the OVSI ventilator system will take place in three phases: the immediate humanitarian response, supported by capability building and ecosystem building for several years, and the establishment of long-term international research collaborations.”

Learn more on the official OVSI website here, and look out for project updates on our social media channels.

Intern Spotlight

CGE’s Summer Interns Play Significant Role in the Open Ventilator System Initiative (OVSI)

by Andrew Birley

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, there were ten countries in Africa that had no ventilators, and the World Health Organisation estimated that there were fewer than 2,000 working devices across the entire continent. In response, the Open Ventilator System Initiative (OVSI) was formed. OVSI is a consortium of academics, engineers, intensive care medics, innovators and industry partners from across Africa and the UK that evolved an initial idea proposed at the University of Cambridge in March 2020. The Centre for Global Equality was an OVSI co-founder and continues to play a key role in the consortium as it evolves. Here we reveal how CGE summer intern, Ben Moore, contributed significantly to the development of the OVSI oxygen concentrator for his final year engineering project.

Ben is a fourth year student at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) at the University of Cambridge. He is passionate about design and manufacturing in the context of international development and humanitarian aid, and in particular the role that local manufacturing can play in empowering communities. During the summer of 2019 Ben worked in Fiji with CGE member organisation, Field Ready, on a pilot project in rehabilitation hospitals, repairing broken medical equipment using 3D printed replacement parts.

Ben joined the OVSI oxygen concentrator team at the end of May 2020 and was initially tasked with conducting in-depth desk-research on how environmental factors like heat, humidity and altitude might affect the performance of the oxygen concentrator. Ben engaged with clinicians and engineers in the UK and in Africa and presented his findings back to the teams in Ethiopia, Kenya and the UK. Ben’s research had a direct impact on the designs themselves, and also on business model considerations. His aptitude and enthusiasm impressed the UK team, and there was a real desire to keep him involved in the initiative.

At the time, OVSI’s initial student cohort, led by Matt Wang and Alex Watson, was coming to the end of its sprint, which provided a perfect opportunity for Ben to become directly involved with hands-on design and engineering of the oxygen concentrator. Overall momentum of the oxygen concentrator team was building fast as the realisation dawned that this relatively basic piece of equipment could, in fact, offer life-saving oxygen therapy to millions of patients around the world, and not just those suffering from COVID-19.

Ben was tasked with finalising the concentrator test rig design, picking up on the excellent progress that had been made by Matt and Alex. He also needed to conclude sourcing the various materials and components that would be utilised for the build. Two of these items, the reactor vessel and aluminium breadboard, were bespoke parts that required design and manufacture. This gave Ben the opportunity to work closely with a team at the specialist engineering company Cambridge Precision, one of the OVSI consortium’s core industry partners. Once all of the items arrived Ben turned his attention to designing the rig layout on the breadboard, with the help of friend and fellow engineering student, Ben Yass. In a focussed 2-week sprint, Team Ben² completed the breadboard design and assembly, and were now ready to begin running the first phase of tests.

A vital aspect of the OVSI initiative is that the designs be open sourced so that they are available globally. Ben was supported by another CGE Summer Intern, Zinzan Gurney, to carry out this crucial piece of work. The designs of both devices, the ventilator and the concentrator, are to be made available on GitLab, a leading open source platform. However, documentation of the ventilator was prioritised because it was being considered for inclusion by the United Nations Technology Access Partnership (TAP). Ben and Zinzan worked on a complex server, gathering all relevant documentation and categorising it effectively for publication on the GitLab repository. The two worked closely with Professor Axel Zeitler, who leads OVSI overall, and with Tashiv Ramsander and Antonio D’Ammaro, key members of the Whittle Lab team that designed the ventilator prototypes. Together, the team worked through generations of design documentation and categorised these according to each iteration of the device.

The CGE team is thrilled to see the progress made by this team over the past year and consider it a privilege to have Ben working alongside us. His contributions are invaluable and have already made a significant difference in the success of the ventilator’s design and manufacture. We’re quite keen to see his continued growth and impact as OVSI evolves.