Airbus, Rolls-Royce and other aerospace and automotive engineering firms are participating in a consortium to respond to a UK demand for medical ventilators, as part of the effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Production is set to commence this week, following development of a design intended to meet high-level medical specifications, says the consortium, known as VentilatorChallengeUK.

Nearly 30 firms are involved, among them GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems, Thales and Meggitt, with automotive contributions from Ford and several Formula One teams including Mercedes, McLaren and Williams.

Consortium participants have received orders from the UK government to produce more than 10,000 ventilators. The group says it has been looking to produce equipment based on materials and components already in production.

“We anticipate a straightforward and very prompt regulatory sign off after the final audit,” it states, adding that it is working on the steps required to accelerate output. Medical equipment is regulated by the MHRA.

The consortium also includes another producer of medical ventilators, and members will provide additional manufacturing and assembly support to scale-up production of another ventilator design which already has regulatory approval.

Manufacturing research centre group High Value Manufacturing Catapult is heading the effort, led by its chief executive Dick Elsy.

“They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale-up production of much-needed ventilators and combat a virus that is affecting people in many countries,” he says.

VentilatorChallengeUK says it is open to offers of support from other organisations, but it stresses that these should be directed through official government internet channels rather than approaching the consortium directly.

“If we need help we will be able to source it through that mechanism,” the consortium states. “In the meantime, will be able to focus all of our energies on the urgent task of production.”