"Low-cost" inflatable baby incubator could help slash number of neonatal fatalities

News: Loughborough University graduate James Roberts has won this year’s James Dyson Award for a baby incubator that costs a fraction of the price of current technologies and “could save thousands of lives” in developing countries. “I was inspired to tackle this problem after watching a documentary on the issue for premature babies in refugee camps,” said Roberts. James Roberts’ MOM “low-cost incubator” was named the winner of this year’s international   James Dyson Award for student product innovation. “It motivated me to use my design engineering skills to make a difference.”

“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,” added British inventor James Dyson, who set up the annual prize. Other products shortlisted for this year’s international award include an expiry label that decays to tell you when food is no longer safe to eat   – which won the UK category – and biodegradable fishing nets that could prevent sea mammal deaths. It can run on battery power that lasts 24 hours, in case of power outages. “Its use needn’t be limited to developing world scenarios,” said consultant paediatrician Steve Jones. Over one in ten babies worldwide are born prematurely, but 75 per cent of resulting deaths could be avoided if inexpensive treatments were more readily available, according to the World Health Organisation. “Providing the same performance as a £30,000 modern incubation system, MOM costs just £250 to manufacture, test and transport to the desired location,” said a statement from Dyson. When not in use, the inflatable pockets fold down and zip away between the two plastic ends for transportation. Roberts has also developed a collapsible phototherapy unit for babies born with jaundice – a yellowing of the skin caused by a build-up of a substance called bilirubin.

Updated: 21.11.2014 — 02:29