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Dublin: 5°C Monday 6 December 2021

This 23 year old's invention could revolutionise neonatal care

He has developed an incubator that costs just a fraction of the usual cost.

File photo of a baby in an incubator.
File photo of a baby in an incubator.
Image: baby via Shutterstock

A 23-YEAR-OLD ENGINEER who created a piece of equipment that could revolutionise neonatal care in developing countries has taken his first steps towards having the unit mass produced.

James Roberts from Loughborough University in the UK developed an incubator with the same capacity of a €38,000 model for a fraction of the price.

Known as MOM, the unit costs €320 to manufacture, test, and transport, but still complies with the standards required for such equipment.

Roberts has now won the James Dyson Award, an innovation award open to anyone who quite simply ‘designs something that solves a problem’.

This will provide the project with a £30,000 cash injection.

He said he was inspired to tackle the issue while watching a documentary on premature babies in refugee camps. He later sold his car to finance the budding project.

MOM is blown up manually, heated using ceramic heating elements, has a screen displaying the current temperature and humidity settings, and even contains a phototherapy unit.

Source: James Roberts/YouTube

A BBC News report from last month on the invention.

“It is a really interesting piece of innovation,” Dr Steve Jones, a consultant pediatrician at the Royal United Hospital in Bath said.

“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.”

The funding will be used for further prototyping and testing, to see how much further costs has been reduced and investigating the possibility of mass production.

A incubator that cost just $25 was previously developed, but does not have the same technical capacity as Roberts’ model.

Runners-up for the award included

  • A wheelchair that allows people with a disability to stand-up, supported by the chair, to perform simple tasks like cooking.
  • An ink marker applied under suncream that reminds you when it’s time to put on more.
  • A pressure-sensitive film that can alert athletes with reduced or no sensation in parts of their bodies when they might have received an injury.

Read: More antibiotics ‘would stop rise’ in dangerous Strep B infections in babies >

More: Professional dancers follow a 2-year-old’s choreography, and it’s adorable >

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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