Industry rises to the challenge of COVID-19

Written by Matt Hogsden, Industry Secondee

COVID-19 presents a challenge to almost every area of life, including the UK’s Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors. At this time of crisis, ADS members are rallying together to provide timely, innovative and real solutions.

The first major challenge is the lack of medical equipment available, such as the estimated 22,000 further ventilators required.

To respond, the VentilatorChallengeUK (a consortium of 24 companies and seven F1 teams) will supply more than 10,000 ventilators, with Babcock and Drägerwerk also combining to produce 10,000 devices. A group of Cambridge medical companies (including TTP, Cambridge Consultants, and PA Consulting) are assisting in ventilator development and manufacture, whilst Marshalls ADG is reinventing a non-invasive solution, the iron lung.

In addition, Airbus has established an ‘air bridge’ using their fleet and crew to ship 400,000 face masks from China to Europe, whilst Denroy is supplying protective visors to the NHS free-of-charge.

As industry produces equipment, the Armed Forces are constructing hospitals. Over 200 army personnel helped construct NHS Nightingale, turning it into the world’s largest critical care centre in under 14 days. With 500 beds currently available, it will become the UK’s largest hospital with a capacity of 4,000.

A second response by industry is the support to other companies tackling COVID-19.

To overcome cash flow restrictions and a lack of R&D funds, ABGi is offering free support on tax relief claims to any company pursuing a solution.

The surge in production demand, restrictive working arrangements and unavailable employees will place a large strain on manufacturing. However, Poeton has increased their support to companies producing ventilators, and the National Physical Laboratory is standing by companies that manufacture key medical equipment.

Elsewhere, BSI has made several European Standards covering PPE available without charge, and is supporting manufacturers with conformity assessments.

Finally, despite the threat, numerous companies remain focussed on critical defence and security outputs, with many of their employees are classified as key workers. This is a priority set by the government itself: “But it is critical that on our key programmes and support… we continue to support the Armed Forces and the defence of the nation.” And with more than 20,000 military personnel comprising the COVID Support Force, industry must stand with the Armed Forces for national stability and security.

Whilst just a few examples, there are many similar efforts throughout industry. Despite the challenge that COVID-19 poses, the UK’s Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors are leading the UK’s response.