Inflatable incubator could save lives
Engineered for developing countries it costs 90% less than a standard incubator.
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Over one in ten babies worldwide are born prematurely. According to the World Health Organisation, 75% of deaths resulting from premature birth could be avoided if inexpensive treatments were more readily available across the globe. This year’s James Dyson Award winner attempts to solve this problem: is a low cost, inflatable incubator for use in the developing world. 

Providing the same performance as a £30,000 modern incubation system, MOM costs just £250 to manufacture, test and transport to the desired location. The device can be collapsed for transportation and runs off a battery which lasts 24 hours, in case of power outages. The incubator is blown up manually and it is heated using ceramic heating elements. A screen shows the current temperature and the humidity which can be custom set, depending on the gestation age. An alarm will sound if the desired temperature changes. And for babies that suffer from Jaundice there is a phototherapy unit which is collapsible too. MOM complies with British incubation standards – delivering a stable heat environment, humidification and jaundice lighting. 

The design engineer behind MOM is James Roberts, 23, a recent graduate from Loughborough University. Winning the James Dyson Award will inject £30,000 into further prototyping and testing, with a view to further cost reductions and ultimately seeing MOM mass produced.

James Roberts said: “I was inspired to tackle this problem after watching a documentary on the issue for premature babies in refugee camps. It motivated me to use my design engineering skills to make a difference. Like many young inventors, there have been struggles along the way – I had to sell my car to fund my first prototype! The dream would be to meet a child that my incubator has saved – living proof that my design has made a difference.” 

James Dyson said: “James’ invention shows the impact design engineering can have on people’s lives. The western world takes incubators for granted – we don’t think about how their inefficient design makes them unusable in developing countries and disaster zones. By bravely challenging convention, James has created something that could save thousands of lives.” 

Dr Steve Jones, Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal United Hospital, Bath said: “MOM is a really interesting piece of innovation – I particularly like the integration of phototherapy, as jaundice is a very common co-morbidity alongside prematurity. Its use needn't be limited to developing world scenarios. I could see it being used in the UK to support community midwifery units, or following home births.”

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