University uses spin-out company’s innovation to co-ordinate donations of equipment in fight against COVID-19

A logistics centre has been set up by Cambridge University to process donations of personal protective equipment - including face masks, gloves and visors from Cambridge labs – and make it readily available to NHS medics battling the COVID-19 outbreak.

Alongside equipment collected at the University itself, extra supplies are being sourced from around the globe by University departments, and donated by Cambridge alumni and a network of University partners, to make them accessible to local GP surgeries, clinics and hospitals.

The processing centre was created to receive, store and send on the equipment. Cambridge spin-out RedBite is providing ‘itemit’ object-tracking technology to log vital information about the donated equipment, ensure only NHS-approved items are forwarded on, and allow a wide range of local services to see what is available in real-time and order what they need.

Supplies at the University’s processing centre are limited and only available to local services. Organisations or individuals able to donate any of the following items can make contact through the University’s dedicated webpage: Face masks (FFP2 and FFP3), disposable surgical masks (type IIR and splash resistant) face visors, hand sanitiser (60% alcohol minimum), water-resistant gowns, hazmat suits, antibacterial wipes, reusable googles and protective glasses.

The operation to co-ordinate PPE donations, which was set up in less than five days, is part of the University’s response to the coronavirus emergency, alongside the work of its researchers to help understand and control the new infection, and its engineers offering expert advice to firms manufacturing ventilators.

So far, equipment has been donated by, among others, the University’s School of the Biological Sciences, the departments of Zoology, Pharmacology and Chemistry, the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, and the city’s science parks. University alumni and partners have already supplied equipment and have promised to send more.

Professor Andy Neely OBE, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, who is leading the operation, said: "The response to this emergency by the University community has been incredible. When the seriousness of the situation became clear, staff in labs across the University began collecting up all available protective equipment so it could be used by NHS clinicians treating COVID-19 patients.

"And when our alumni and partners joined in it soon became clear we needed a more co-ordinated approach to make sure the right equipment was made available to local services. The infrastructure has now been set up to deal with all of the promised donations – some of which have already arrived - and we’re ready to go.

"Tackling this outbreak will require unprecedented local, national and international efforts, and the University is committed to providing all the resources and expertise it can to support that."

Cambridge graduate and Trinity College alumnus Professor Yang Xia, a former member of the University’s General Board of the Faculties who spent 10 years in the city, has personally donated a shipment of face masks.

Professor Xia, now Deputy Chairman at Shandong Yingcai University in China, said: "I certainly hope that the face masks will help. It was the least I should do; the University feels like my second home. I only regret that it wasn't easier for me to get hold of even more supplies in the first instance, so I could be sending yet more!"

Meanwhile, the University’s Postdoctoral and Entrepreneurial Societies have rallied to create digital well-being and support channels for the wider community. And following the closure of University cafes, the University Catering Service donated food for free lunches for local NHS staff, as well as to Jimmy’s Cambridge, which supports the homeless.

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