From rapidly increasing the production of ventilators to producing testing kits, 3D-printing PPE, developing apps, robots and other supports, we recognise the winners and those who achieved highly commended status in the 'Contribution of engineering to the COVID-19 response' category, part of Engineers Ireland's Engineering Excellence Digital Series, held in association with ESB and supported by Accenture and Geoscience Ireland.

Engineers play a pivotal role in public health, sustainability and innovation, and behind every design-led engineering solution are real people, communities and families that benefit. From the role our Chartered Engineer of the Year, NUI Galway graduate and Oranmore native Donal Kelly has played in delivering transport solutions in London to the role engineers have placed to support communities during COVID-19.

The pandemic has caused numerous challenges for humankind, impacting the way we live, work, learn and interact. In response, engineers from across Ireland have come together to drive solutions to support the treatment and mitigation of COVID-19. 

From rapidly increasing the production of ventilators to producing testing kits, 3D printing PPE, developing apps, robots and other supports, Ireland’s engineers are driving solutions that will support efforts by our frontline healthcare workers and help mitigate the impact of the virus in villages, towns and cities across the country and the world.

Winning project No 1

The Covid Alliance – How Ireland’s engineers rallied to the coronavirus emergency

The Covid Alliance is an informal grouping of organisations from the engineering and manufacturing sectors that came together to volunteer its services to the HSE as the crisis developed in March 2020.

It provided services – primarily on a pro bono basis – that enabled the servicing of temporary clinical facilities; a review of the medical gas infrastructure of more than 30 of the country’s acute hospitals and subsequent capacity delivery projects; the development of a supply chain for a key Covid testing reagent; and the design of locally produced goggles for medical personnel.


The alliance involved more than 10 work streams with representatives of the participating companies meeting daily and working together in teams with no reference to their employment: all focused on meeting the needs of the crisis.

It responded to needs identified by the HSE at a national and local level for infrastructure for acute hospitals (medical gas infrastructure, mortuaries and PPE) and the national Covid testing programme.

Key achievements:

  • The supply and fit-out of temporary mortuaries at 13 hospitals;
  • The design of temporary reception wards for county hospitals;
  • A capacity assessment of medical gas systems of all acute and regional hospitals and a number of nursing homes tasked with treating Covid patients;
  • Upgrades to five hospitals to increase or de-bottleneck oxygen supplies and medical air systems.  Sourcing of reserve industrial systems that could be repurposed for clinical use;
  • Servicing of the Citywest stepdown facility with medical gas infrastructure;
  • Creation of an industrial utilities and maintenance team to support hospital infrastructure systems;
  • Scaling up of reagent supply chain to address shortages that were impacting national testing capabilities;
  • Development of systems to sanitise single-use PPE as a contingency measure to address shortages;
  • Design and development of locally produced clinical face goggles, leading to an order for 1.2 million units from the HSE;
  • Commercialisation support of a rapid home-testing system.

The alliance was organised into a series of volunteer work streams, with companies aligned based on their specific capabilities. Almost 40 different companies and national organisations contributed to the effort.

Winning project No 2

I-Form’s rapid response digital manufacturing hub

Researchers at I-Form, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing, used their engineering expertise in additive manufacturing – also known as 3D printing – to provide essential PPE to frontline staff, and to support other aspects of the health service.    

The I-Form team, which is based across the seven third-level institutes of UCD, DCU, TCD, WIT, NUIG, IT Sligo and NUI Maynooth worked around the clock to 3D-print 5,000 face shields for doctors, nurses, and care-home workers across Ireland.


Researchers used their engineering skills to develop a process flow that maximised throughput across the available bank of 3D printers, while ensuring repeatable quality.  

These engineers are also using their 3D printing expertise to address the clinical need for ventilator parts, breathing devices and other protective equipment for use during the current wave of COVID-19 cases.  

Face shields were distributed initially to local hospitals and then extended to hospitals further afield, as well as nursing homes, GPs, and ambulance services throughout the country.

Face shields were also sent overseas to a mission hospital in Tanzania, and knowledge and expertise were shared with researchers in Namibia. A heavy-duty version of the visor, more suited to outdoor use, was produced using laser cutting. Several hundred versions were supplied to ambulance services.

Alongside requests for face shields, the team also received calls from doctors and ICU staff concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 on their supply chain for ventilation and respiratory equipment.

The team worked with hospitals in Cavan, Sligo and Galway to produce 3D-printed ventilator parts and alternative breathing devices for use in the event of a total supply chain collapse.

Highly commended

  • Low Cost Emergency Ventilator 

The Low-Cost Emergency Ventilator project, by Malone Group Project Partners, Irish Manufacturing Research Institute (MIR) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), started on March 13, 2020, following a national call to action to develop a low-cost ventilator that could be produced to support the COVID-19 crisis. Malone Group, in collaboration with IMR, accepted the challenge.

Over a 13-week period, the project partners assembled a team consisting of three different entities located in ten different locations with the common purpose of developing a low-cost ventilator.

Low-Cost Emergency Ventilator project, by Malone Group Project Partners, MIR and MIT

In the initial stages of development, the team identified in the call to action noted  that any design produced must not draw on the same supply lines as the established ventilator manufacturers.

Following evaluation and selecting a basic design to take forward for detailed design and prototyping of the ventilator, the team collaborated with leading MIT academics in the development of a functioning low-cost ventilator.

Following mechanical design iteration and sharing of basic design function PLC programming, the team built, developed and tested three prototype iterations of the ventilator. The design is now ready for the team to engage with a contract manufacturer.

  • Open Source Ventilator & Team OSV

The Open Source Ventilator Ireland group was established in mid-March 2020, initially with the goal of building a focused team in Ireland to begin development on what was termed the ‘Field Emergency Ventilator’.

Founded by Dr Colin Keogh, Conall Laverty and David Pollard, a core team of volunteers assembled remotely to start rapidly building open-source interventions.

Over a matter of days, the world took notice of their efforts, and a huge volume of volunteers (5,000+ people) joined OSV and the fight against Covid.

Due to increasing needs and shortages, OSV was reformed as TeamOSV, to expand and adapt to a range of other equipment needs including PPE, Face Shields & Educational Guides.

TeamOSV became a multidisciplinary team (3,000+, 55+ countries) of engineers, designers, makers, and medics working on developing novel low-resource interventions through online open collaboration.

As one of the largest Open Source hardware projects ever created, this method of collaboration shows the huge potential for opensource projects to contribute to the highest levels of science. For more information, visit: 

  • Robotic Room Disinfection Using UV Germicidal Irradiation 

The Robotic Room Disinfection Using UV Germicidal Irradiation project, by Akara Robotics in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and with support from the HSE, Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore and Intel, is a mobile UV disinfection robot combined with AI software that enables it to optimally disinfect a room.

Named ‘Violet’, the system can be deployed in a number of environments including hospitals, nursing homes, airports and offices where it can autonomously navigate and disinfect areas within the room. The system uses UV-C light which has been scientifically proven to inactivate a wide range of microorganisms, including SARS-CoV-2.

‘Violet’ can be deployed in a number of environments

Developed by Akara, a recent Trinity College spin-out, Violet has also been trialled successfully at Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore since April 2020, with scientific validation of the technology conducted by researchers at Trinity College.

Preliminary hospital testing has indicated that Violet could reduce the time to disinfect critical frontline Radiology facilities like CT scan rooms from 30 to 60 minutes to less than 15 minutes while improving the quality of disinfection.