“I launched into Exovent a year ago this week. The dystopian potential of worst-case COVID had been recognised. Industry had been called on to wage a new ‘Battle of Britain’ by building ventilators. Big industry started a big, and ultimately effective, programme for Britain. The small band of Exovent, from small beginnings, began something bigger which is still on track to change the world.
Within 3 days of starting part-time on Exovent my company, Costa Express, released me from my role as Chief Engineer to commit full time to develop the first Exovents. The intense early weeks focused on ensuring we could, if circumstances demanded, open a supply route of negative pressure ventilators in parallel with big industry’s expansion of conventional ventilator production. There were long days, virtual collaborating, rapid prototyping, international conference calls, conversations with government, regulators, hospitals, academia, industry, military, … something breath-taking emerging from nothing. It involved my whole family: my kids ‘modelling’ in a mock-up, my wife (who is a GP) educating me on basic anatomy, my kids cooking meals whilst I made the next set of endless calls. The sort of once in a lifetime ‘it’s a long shot but it might just work’ project that engineers dream of!
Ultimately the UK’s desperate need for large quantities of ventilators did not materialise. What did materialise, though, was the breath-taking opportunity that Exovent has to meet the world’s need for large quantities of simple and affordable ventilators. We did not have time to pause in those early weeks. And we never would have carried on, let alone have started, if we had not imagined we could make an immediate impact in the UK. Ultimately we missed our long shot and instead found our ourselves on track for a moon shot!
I needed to return to Costa Express. They had been wonderful to release me, but I did, after all, still have a job that needed doing! I have been able to continue to contribute as a trustee for the Exovent charity and many others have joined, and still continue to join, the growing team as Exovent pushes ahead in these strange times. ‘The New Normal’ is an echoing and hollow tagline which many of you, I am sure, are fed up with hearing. In reality each of us faces a far more enticing prospect of a ‘new not-normal’. What Exovent is offering the world, the way it has done it, the way it must go on to succeed – it is all new and not-normal. What new and not-normal step can you take to let the world breath freely? Go on – a host of small contributions can change the world. They’re the only thing that ever have!”
Jon Harris PhD
Chief Engineer Costa Express